Self-Forgiveness: Opening to Love’s Embrace

When I saw the soft, inviting presence of the water in the beautiful photograph above, I was visited by the words and presence of “Self-forgiveness.” It brings forward a yearning to be on that boat, to be surrounded and embraced by the buoyant, healing qualities of the water.

One of the great wisdom teachings of the 13th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, is that there is a pure place in each of our Souls that can never be harmed by anything that takes place in this world — no matter how painful the experiences we’ve walked through. I know this place of purity and wholeness inside, and take solace that it can always be returned to by each of us as our true “home.”

Whenever our mind places a judgment towards ourselves or another, we have begun the process of closing our awareness to the presence of love that is who we are. In essence, we subtly (and often unconsciously) begin the process of “leaving home.” Our reasons for judging and closing our hearts are an understandable response to pain in our lives, yet ironically only compound the suffering we are experiencing. Over time, the burden of our inner disturbance weighs more heavily on our hearts and, looking for a way to release the pain, we turn towards the healing power of forgiveness.

The ancient Greek word for forgiveness is aphesis, meaning “to let go,” and one of the bravest steps we take on our healing journey is to forgive:

“There is nothing more painful than walking around with bitterness in your heart. When we forgive another we let go of the judgments we may have projected onto them. We release them from all our interpretations and evaluations, all our thoughts of right or wrong, of friend or foe. Forgiveness is not something we do for the other person so much as something we do for ourselves. When we let go of our judgments of others, we let go of the source of much of our anger and many of our grievances. Our bad feelings may seem justified at the time, but they don’t serve us. In fact, they usually cause more damage to us than they do to the other person. The freer we are of our judgments and grievances, the more at peace we can be in ourselves.”

~ Hugh Prather

What I find helpful with myself and with clients is making the important distinction that the essential action of forgiveness is about letting go of the judgments towards myself and/or the other person. Said another way, forgiveness is not about what happened or the behavior, rather a releasing of the indictment we’ve placed against our own or another’s inherent goodness/personhood. Opening to the sacred energies of forgiveness can take place by ourselves or with the other person involved, yet I find it important to recognize that either way the healing shifts that come with forgiveness takes place inside of ourselves. From this point of view, all forgiveness is self-forgiveness, as we’re the ones who place the judgments — and we’re the ones with the power to release them. (For example, the forgiveness process might be, “I forgive myself for judging myself for all the times I betrayed my inner truth;” or, “I forgive myself for judging John as a bad person for his actions,” etc.)

“You may call God love, you may call God goodness.

But the best name for God is compassion.”

~ Meister Eckhart

I find it is essential to not move forward prematurely with the forgiveness of judgments, as often there is a need to “moisten the bed of leaves” first with an honest expression of the range of thoughts and painful feelings that are related to the disturbing incident. If an attempt to release the judgments is initiated too soon, it can lead to a primarily mental process that doesn’t open us to the healing energies of the heart (in other words, in some measure one hasn’t allowed themselves to truly release the pain, sometimes referred to as a “spiritual bypass”).

If the judgment being released involves an incident with another person, the inner healing through self-forgiveness can take place in a very real and powerful way without the other person present, and can sometimes be gently facilitated by using the imagination and speaking to them out loud in an imaginary dialogue. The key is the sincerity of intent to be honest, to express whatever thoughts and feelings need to be expressed, and when ready, open wide to the healing, releasing energies of forgiveness. They will come…….

Ultimately, Self-forgiveness is about re-opening to the healing embrace of unconditional love. For me, it is often like making a gentle and sincere apology to myself, whereby I recognize I have erred by judging and in doing so allow the judgment to lift off of me. It’s like removing a log from the center of my flowing river — an act of true Self-compassion.


by Hafiz


the violin

can forgive the past,

it starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying

about the future,

you will become

such a drunk laughing nuisance

that God

will then lean down

and start combing you into



When the violin can forgive

every wound caused by


the heart starts


May the healing presence of water and divine forgiveness wash over you just now,


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