Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past

Overview

“I can never forgive myself,” she said. “Every time I think about it, I get sick to my stomach.”
I knew that feeling. I had felt it due to my own failures and shortcomings. I also knew I could help her, because I know that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
 
The partial truth about us is hard to accept: We hurt those ...

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Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past

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Overview

“I can never forgive myself,” she said. “Every time I think about it, I get sick to my stomach.”
I knew that feeling. I had felt it due to my own failures and shortcomings. I also knew I could help her, because I know that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
 
The partial truth about us is hard to accept: We hurt those we love. We fail to step in when others need us most. We do wrong—and we need forgiveness. From others and from God, but also from ourselves.
 
But the full truth about us is liberating and freeing: while we are more deeply flawed than we can imagine, we also are far more valuable and cherished than we can comprehend. To reach the place of self-forgiveness, we must  embrace this  truth. The gift of God’s acceptance frees us from self-blame, guilt, and shame.
 
In this practical, inspiring book, Dr. Everett Worthington identifies six steps to forgiving yourself:
·         Receive God’s forgiveness
·         Repair relationships
·         Rethink ruminations
·         REACH emotional self-forgiveness
·         Rebuild self-acceptance
·         Resolve to live virtuously
 
Weaving his own story of struggling with his brother’s suicide and his overwhelming feelings of regret, together with psychological insight, scientific research, and biblical truth, Dr. Worthington opens a clear path to freedom from self-condemnation to self-acceptance and most importantly, to the full life that Christ promises.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The author (A Just Forgiveness) draws from the personal experience of the murder of his mother and the suicide of his brother to examine moving on after trauma or tragedy. Writing as a Christian and a clinical psychologist, he identifies the source of problems as three ruminations: Satan, sin and self. Drawing from research he has done over his lifetime as well as other research plus scripture and good common sense, Worthington, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, constructs a narrative for living a life beyond guilt. Through his work with the Templeton Foundation Campaign for Forgiveness Research and his life as a clinical psychologist, he presents a path worth following, the REACH method for emotional forgiveness (Recall hurt; replace unforgiveness with Empathy; give the Altruistic gift of forgiveness; Commit to it; Hold on through doubt). His exposition is full of easy to follow formulas for the individual seeking to get through a crisis. This book is for people of faith facing difficulties in their lives. Agent: Esmond Harmsworth, Zachary Schuster Harmsworth. (July)
From the Publisher
Praise for Moving Forward

“A compassionate and very personal examination of the hows and whys of self-forgiveness. Blending the sensitivity of a counselor with the rigor of a scientist is no easy accomplishment, and that is what has made Everett Worthington the most sought-after expert on forgiveness for nearly two decades. Read this book and learn how to move forward in your own journey of self-forgiveness.”
—Robert Emmons, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, author of Gratitude Works! and Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier

“Why do we see the need to forgive others while overlooking the importance of forgiving ourselves? Everett Worthington knows from hard experience that both are necessary, but neither is easy. Now you can benefit from his years of research—as well as life-tested application—in taking the only path that will free you from shame and self-condemnation.”
—Dr. Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, executive director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies at Liberty University

“Researcher-clinician Everett Worthington, the world’s leading expert on the science and practice of forgiveness, now points the way to self-forgiveness. For those of us who are painfully aware of our flaws—and that’s most of us—this grace-filled book shows how to lighten the burden of self-blame and guilt, how to discover and embrace God’s love, and how to experience healing.”
—David G. Myers, Hope College social psychologist, author of A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists

“Who doesn’t know the feeling of being stuck in a rut or weighed down with self-condemnation? This book is for all of us who are honest enough to confess our need to make peace with ourselves. Dr. Worthington has suffered through darkness and now uses the story of his personal pain to light the way for all of us. Read Moving Forward and join him on the inspiring journey of self-forgiveness and true peace.” 
—Les Parrott, PhD, author of Shoulda Coulda Woulda

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307731517
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/16/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 207,088
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

EVERETT L. WORTHINGTON, JR, holds a PhD from the University of Missouri. He is professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and a licensed clinical psychologist. He has appeared on Good Morning AmericaCNN, and The 700 Club and has been featured in award-winning documentaries on forgiveness. He has published more than thirty books on topics he has studied scientifically and clinically. Visit his website at www.forgiveself.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

A Personal Note to Get Us Started

Forgiveness is hard; we all know that. What comes as a surprise to many of us is this: forgiving yourself can be much harder still. When you are the wrongdoer who needs to be forgiven—and you are the one who needs to forgive—a struggle results that has few equals.

In Moving Forward you will learn research-proven steps to forgiving others and yourself. The steps also have been tear-tested in the difficulties and darkness of real life and worked through in the counseling room. As we work through the six steps in the chapters that follow, you will gain life-changing insight into your nature as a person. And you will discover a number of truths about yourself—things you might already have suspected but weren’t yet prepared to take a close look at.

The truth about you (and all of us) is hard to accept, but it’s powerful and life changing when you do face it and engage with it. The truth is this: you are more flawed than you can imagine. But, miraculously, you also are far more valuable and more cherished than you can imagine.

You—and everyone else—are a contrast of flaws and unspeakable value that is difficult to fathom. But when you do get it, and I finally “got it” as I moved through my own struggles, the breakthrough is a glorious shift in the way you live. So join with me to work through a process that will be much harder than you expect but will end with the freedom you have been seeking. You can live without self-blame and condemnation, without the familiar burden of guilt, and in a place where you can embrace the precious value of being a flawed person who is deeply loved by God. The work that is required to reach self-forgiveness will seem daunting. And with good reason. It is more demanding than most of the challenges you will take on in life. But the difficult work eventually achieves a goal that few people reach. Self-forgiveness releases you from shame and self-condemnation and leads to freedom and long-lasting internal peace.

All of this begins with God’s recipe for self-acceptance, which is summed up as “you are flawed, but precious.” The real struggle in gaining meaningful victory over self-blame is not simply saying you are forgiving yourself. You can forgive yourself with full understanding and yet still feel just as guilty and ashamed of your misdeeds. The hardest struggle—
beyond self-forgiveness—is accepting yourself as a flawed individual (we all are), and yet being convinced that you are precious to the Lord. You are valued more highly than you can imagine.

After you work through the steps to self-forgiveness, you will experience something that Paul came to realize in his life. Paul couldn’t change his past persecution of Christians, but he knew he was living a new life. Likewise, you can admit to your past failures and the things you regret yet strain forward to the future (see Philippians 3:13).

I hope your sense of hope will be renewed as we embark on a journey that will involve a lot of work but will lead to the destination we all long for. So are you ready to work through the six steps to forgiving yourself?

Here is the sneak-peek outline.
Step 1: Receive God’s Forgiveness
Step 2: Repair Relationships
Step 3: Rethink Ruminations
Step 4: REACH Emotional Self-Forgiveness
Step 5: Rebuild Self-Acceptance
Step 6: Resolve to Live Virtuously

Now let’s get started.

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Reading Group Guide

Taking Your Own Steps

This guide is designed to help you continue your journey of forgiving yourself. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down your thoughts, plans, questions, and next steps.

1. Everett L. Worthington Jr., writes that it is more difficult to forgive yourself than to forgive others. How do you feel about his statement?

2. The author shares in detail his deepest regrets over his relationship with his late brother. How important is it to be this transparent about your failures? Would you agree this is a necessary step in the process of self-forgiveness?

3. It is natural to condemn yourself for your words and actions that hurt others. In your struggle with self-condemnation, has God appeared to be more often a helper and comforter or a judge? Do you believe God can help you change self-condemning patterns? What assumptions and habits have you identified that prevent God from helping you let go of self-condemnation?

4. You begin to forgive yourself when you make a firm decision to do so. Write down your commitment to do this, then tell someone you trust about your decision. (This person can serve as an accountability partner.) It also helps to write your decision on a card and post it where you will see it regularly. Are you ready to take this step?

5. Clear away major obstacles by first seeking divine forgiveness. List the ways in which you have wronged others, yourself, and God. Also include things you should have done but failed to do. Next, pray to God, seeking God’s forgiveness for each of the things you have written down.

6. If you have confessed to God the words and actions that give rise to your self-condemnation, as well as the failures to act, consider 1 John 1:9. If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to purify you. Can you accept God’s forgiveness? If not, why not?

7. After you have received God’s forgiveness, consider whether to go to those you have wronged, if that is possible and if it would not lead to further harm. Choose one wrong you are dealing with. Write a good confession and practice saying it aloud. (However, if making this confession to the wronged party would harm that person further, you need to confess to God alone or to a trusted person such as a pastor or your spouse. The same is true if the person is no longer living, cannot be located, or has refused to listen to you.) Do you want to confess to the person?

8. If you decide to confess to the person you harmed, are you ready to do so? If not, why not?

9. Is restitution appropriate? Think of reasons it would be helpful to make amends to the wronged party for what you did or said that was harmful. If it’s possible and appropriate, what would be meaningful restitution in this instance? It might be best to ask directly, “What can I do to make up for what I have done?”

10. If you have made things right with God and have done what is possible, advisable, and safe to make things right with others, you can forgive yourself. If you have made that decision, write it down. This is what the author calls “decisional self-forgiveness.” It is an essential step toward finding peace. (To experience complete emotional self-forgiveness, continue to work through the following questions. It is possible to replace negative emotions toward yourself with positive emotions.)

11. You can replace negative, unforgiving emotions with empathy, compassion, and love. This is not easy, as you already know. You are the offending party, so you are doing this work to forgive a wrongdoer—yourself. To help you succeed, seek the help of people who know you well and who love you. Write down the names of three close friends or trusted advisors who will help you. (To work fully through the five steps of emotional selfforgiveness captured in the acronym REACH, go to chapter 16
of this book.)

12. Which is stronger, your sinfulness or God’s grace? Write a brief description of a time you experienced the impact of God’s grace through your entire being. How can you rely on the power of God’s grace in times when you realize you are slipping back into patterns of self-blame, condemnation, and lack of self-acceptance?

13. The author says that self-acceptance can be harder than forgiving yourself. Is this in line with your experience? Can you accept yourself as deeply flawed in a fundamental way and yet know that God loves you very much and thinks you are precious?

14. Because God loves you, you might want to try to be even more dedicated to honoring God through virtuous behavior. Would you like to dedicate yourself to some specific virtue right now? You can write yourself a commitment just below.

15. Has God set you free from the prison of some of your past as you worked through these six steps to self-forgiveness? If so, have you expressed your gratitude?

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