The best remorse is a life well lived.
When we want to pray for forgiveness it usefully means that we feel that we have done something wrong and we are asking God (or a higher power of some kind) to forgive us for what we did. If we feel guilty or ashamed for something we have done it is obviously good to do something about that and not just stay stuck in feeling bad.
Prayer is obviously a form of asking. What better way to “ask” for forgiveness than to offer it to others? We can use The Four Steps to Forgiveness to forgive others and that in effect is a form of prayer, and invocation, a request, to have more forgiveness in our lives – in other words to have forgiveness for ourselves too.
When we feel we need to be forgiven we feel pain. The pain usually takes the form of feeling guilty (guilt is a feeling of, “I did something bad”) and/or feeling shame (shame is a feeling of, “I am bad”). Guilt is usually about how we feel about what we did; shame is usually about how we feel about ourselves. They often go together, but there are very different feelings. With guilt we are down on what we did; with shame we are down on ourselves.
Rather than being caught in our own pain we can break out of it be asking ourselves, “Who do I need to forgive?”. Then start using The Four Steps to Forgiveness to do exactly that. This may not look like a prayer for Forgiveness, but is certainly is as we will receive as we give. Can we really expect to be forgiven when we are still holding on to old grudges and resentments from who knows how long ago? A farmer does not just pray for healthy crops he/she does the work to clear the ground and plant the seeds too. Working on forgiving others (and it is work) gets things ready. It also helps us feel a whole lot better about ourselves.
Through using the The Four Steps to Forgiveness we also discover how to forgive ourselves. Do we need to forgive ourselves? Of course we do. If we judge our behaviour as “bad” or “wrong” then we need to forgive ourselves.
Forgiving ourselves is vitally important. Usually when we make a mistake and hurt another it because if we became too self-centred and got too caught up in our own feelings to be aware of the harm that we were doing. If we realise we made a mistake, and then fill our mind with self-judgment or self-condemnation this is just another way of being too caught up in our own feelings. This makes it more likely that we will do the same, or similar, things again.
We need to break the habit of being too self-absorbed. One way to do that, ironically, is by forgiving ourselves. It may seem like self forgiveness could be a self-centred thing to do. However, when we use The Four Steps to Forgiveness for this we discover that self forgiveness is a very unselfish thing to do. Everyone around us benefits as we learn to forgive ourselves. For one thing we become a much kinder person and much easier to be around. Does that benefit those close to us? Of course, it does.
Remorse and Making Amends
Remorse is good if it leads us to make amends for what a wrong we did. However, if we are simply stuck in feeling bad and berating ourselves in useless ways this does not benefit anyone. Some people feel that they need to punish themselves as a way of expressing remorse. However, this usually hurts the people around them (who also have to suffer the guilty person’s painful feelings in some way either by their withdrawal, or their acting out their distress) and does no good at all to the person they have harmed.
It is better to make amends, if that is possible and reasonable, in direct ways. Otherwise it is better to make amends by doing specific acts to help others, preferably anonymously. However, to paraphrase an old saying: The best remorse is a life well lived. Sometimes the only remedy available to us is to lead a good and decent as best we can from now on. For some things there is no way to make amends and if we are genuinely sorry then we need to make leading a good life as our number one priority.
As we learn to forgive others and learn to forgive ourselves we reach a deeper understanding of forgiveness than we had before. We may still want to say specific forms of prayer for forgiveness and that is well and good. However, our prayers will be much more effective and much more powerful if we have prepared the ground. Forgiving others and forgiving ourselves, by using The Four Steps to Forgiveness, clears they way for us to be able to receive God’s blessing by removing the spiritual clutter of unforgiveness that has been getting in the way.
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Four Steps to Forgiveness
A powerful way to freedom, happiness and success.
William Fergus Martin