Home » News » Self-Forgiving Important First Step to Healing

Self-Forgiving Important First Step to Healing

Forgiving ourselves for hurting another is easier if we take responsibility and make peace with our inner self.

Researchers say that giving our inner selves a “moral OK” is a significant action toward the healing process.

The study, by Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences is published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Carpenter believes taking responsibility for an action, then making amends with oneself, allows self-restoration.

Experts believe the findings are significant because previous studies show that the inability to self-forgive can be a factor in depression, anxiety, and a weakened immune system.

“One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings,” Carpenter said.

“They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go.”

The research article was based on two studies. In the first, 269 participants recalled diverse “real-world” offenses they had committed, ranging from romantic betrayals to physical injury to gossip to rejection.

In the second study, 208 participants were asked about a hypothetical wrong.

In the first study, participants were asked how much they have forgiven themselves for an actual offense; how much they had tried such efforts as apology, asking forgiveness and restitution; how much they felt the other person had forgiven them; and how much they saw self-forgiveness as morally appropriate.

The more they made amends, the more they felt self-forgiveness was morally permissible. Further, receiving forgiveness appeared to help people feel it was morally all right to let go.

Researchers said one limitation of the first study was that the offenses varied from person to person.

So to further test their hypotheses, in Study Two they used a standardized hypothetical offense — failing to take the blame for the action that caused a friend’s firing.

This study revealed similar results to the first, although — unlike in Study One — receiving forgiveness from someone else had little effect on whether one forgave oneself.

The research also showed that the guiltier a person felt and the more serious the wrong, the less he or she was likely to self-forgive.

Making amends also appeared to help people self-forgive by reducing those feelings, the researchers found. Also, women were generally less self-forgiving than men.

Self-forgiveness may be “morally ambiguous territory,” researchers wrote, and “individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue to pay for their wrongs.”

But by making amends, they may be able to “tip the scales of justice.”

Source: Baylor University

Forgive sign photo by shutterstock.

Self-Forgiving Important First Step to Healing

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Self-Forgiving Important First Step to Healing. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 14 May 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.