Espousing Inward Compassion

Feb 3 , 2024
By Kidist Yidnekachew

I sometimes find myself leaving behind a trail of mistakes and unintended pain. While extending forgiveness to others may flow naturally, the journey of forgiving oneself resembles scaling a steep emotional precipice. Guilt, regret, and shame collide, making self-forgiveness seem insurmountable.

This revelation hit me recently when I uttered hurtful words to a dear friend. Although I was irritable and in the heat of the moment, immediate regret washed over me, compounded by the realisation that my feelings, though genuine, were expressed inappropriately. I offered a heartfelt apology following my verbal outburst. My friend understood the situation and responded with a compassionate embrace.

We decided to lighten the atmosphere with a coffee outing, sharing a few laughs before parting ways. Despite her forgiveness and our shared moments of levity, my internal turmoil persisted. I found myself continually replaying the incident in my mind. The weight of remorse for my hurtful words echoed a familiar struggle from the past.

Why is self-forgiveness so elusive?

The judgmental voice within meticulously documents every flaw and mistake. It thrives on perfectionism, magnifying errors and downplaying successes. Accompanied by shame, it whispers feelings of unworthiness, making forgiveness feel like betrayal.

Mistakes, however, do not define our characters; it comes with being human. While shame may rear its ugly head, we have the power to choose not to let it define us. Regret, on the other hand, keeps us tethered to the past with echoes of "what ifs" and "should haves," preventing us from fully embracing the present. To move forward, it is vital to acknowledge the past, learn from the experience, and gently release ourselves from its grip.

The fear that forgiving oneself condones past actions or diminishes the pain caused is a common misconception. Forgiveness does not erase the past; it allows us to incorporate it into our narrative without letting it define our present. True control lies in the choices we make in the present and our commitment to learning and personal development.

Unresolved trauma can cast a long shadow, distorting our self-perception and making forgiveness seem undeserved.

Self-forgiveness is an active choice we make to liberate ourselves from the pain stemming from distressing situations. It is a conscious effort to let go of our own perceived shortcomings. On the other hand, self-compassion is not just an action but a continuous state of being. It involves treating ourselves with kindness and understanding consistently.

One thrives on the other. By cultivating self-compassion regularly, we create a foundation of gentleness toward ourselves. It even may result in fewer situations that require forgiveness.

Clinging to guilt and self-punishment, we mistakenly believe they grant us control over the situation. However, true control lies not in the past but in the choices we make in the present and our commitment to learning and personal development. Releasing ourselves from guilt does not diminish our ability to act; instead, it empowers us to explore purpose and intention.

Focusing on the lessons learned and the positive steps toward personal growth is what I learned through the process. Although making amends where possible is essential, I learned that true forgiveness comes from within. Slowly but surely, I moved closer to acceptance and eventually inner peace.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 03,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1240]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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