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Can you forgive yourself?

  1. Nov 27, 2004 #1
    Do you think that you can forgive yourself after doing some sort of horrific or just immoral act?

    I sure can not forgive myself. But i speculate regarding who can.

    The purpose of this thread is to see whether non-Christians believe they can gain redemption without God.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2004 #2
    I believe in contributing positively in society enough to justify my existence. If I did something evil I would try to do good to make up for what I did. I could still think I was overall a good person. Could I ever forgive myself, no. I don't forgive myself in reality for anything. Forgiveness excuses bad behavior so I rather realize what I did happened in the past, and either has signifigance today or no longer has any. The past will never change but things should be done to make up for past actions.

    Here is an example: I failed to realize an answer on a test. I criticized myself for this failure and realized the mistake. I know I cannot change the test so in the future my chances of doing well on another test are higher for two reasons: I will remember the bad feelings that arose when I previously got an incorrect answer, and I will have likely prepared better. However, I have now stopped punishing myself but remember and regret what I did.

    That perfectionist example could be implied to an evil deed. I actually did that because I'm trying signifigantly decrease the amount of "silly mistakes" I make and that mistake was based on forgetfulness and incorrect thinking, which is just unacceptable. Next time I will know just as if I had done an evil deed next time I probably wouldn't do it because the perfectionist example of regret would be increased 100fold or more.

    If your meaning is: Could I subside what I did to the point that it wouldn't bother me constantly - yes. I would not forget what I did and I would do extra things to make up for it because logically it would be correct to do that.
  4. Nov 27, 2004 #3
    I can, I usually don't dwell on stuff like that. Plus, I tend to forget a lot of stuff and move on pretty quickly in general. I'm Catholic (not a very fervent or pious one tho), but this has more to do with my own disposition/personality. Being Catholic does help reinforce this, but it's not where it stems from.

    On another note, if I've done something to hurt someone, especially emotionally, then I tend to retain an empathetic feeling of what I've done, but I don't hate myself or anything for it. I'm pretty mellow, so there aren't any malicious feelings I'd feel guilty for. I think that's the rub of it.
  5. Nov 28, 2004 #4


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    :biggrin: I asked a similar question, about self-forgiveness, self-love, and integrity. https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=26824

    I think all offenses resulting from ignorance are forgivable; This doesn't mean remaining ignorant is forgivable. I assume forgiveness to follow from 1) recognizing your mistake and 2) making the decision to change your future behavior accordingly, to not repeat the mistake.
    In most cases, forgiving yourself more than once for the same offense isn't possible, as it wouldn't meet the first requirement- it isn't a mistake if you already know it's wrong, and, if you've already forgiven yourself for it, you already know it's wrong.
    There is the possibility that, in repeating the same offense, your mistake actually resulted from not being diligent or prudent, for example. But you can still only forgive yourself once for these offenses.
    There is still the possibility that, though you know what diligence is, you aren't able to achieve perfect diligence because of imperfect knowledge. Perfect knowledge may not be attainable, and so you may always be able to forgive yourself for these offenses.
    You can also cut yourself a friggin break once in a while :bugeye:

    Of course, what you consider to be wrong or offensive is your call.

    I have the feeling I'm forgetting something, but can't put my finger on it yet.

    Happy thoughts,
  6. Nov 28, 2004 #5

    Well, are you actually talking about forgiveness or redemption?
    If redemption, do you mean it as in Salvation from sin? If so, there is nothing to discuss as I simply do not share your conviction and so that point is moot. If it is about forgiveness then I would turn to the party I injured to seek forgiveness, and not a third party having nothing to do with the affair. By my own standard I am compelled to consider that as being not only a 'cop-out', but also an immoral and intellectually dishonest act.
  7. Nov 28, 2004 #6
    How about if you hurt your own self? If you choose to do that which harms your mind, or if you do not believe in a mind, your inner goodness and morality. Then who will you go to for forgiveness?

    I think you are missing a large portion of Catholicism. In Christianity, the only person that can forgive your for your sins is God. No one else.
    An interesting example are psychiatrists who are always begged by their patients to forgive them for what they have done. They of course, state they can not do such a thing. People seek forgiveness. It is the nature of the human being.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2004
  8. Nov 28, 2004 #7
    It all depends on how you evaluate redemption.
    Can anyone be redeemed for murder? You wouldn't think so.
    And what constitutes an immoral act? Is this the moral system of a religion, or a societal morality because they have distinct differences.

    As only a semi-religious individual I prefer to look at things in terms of responsibility rather than acts of redemption. Personally I feel it is much more important, and valuable, to admit to your faults and then try to make up for them if you can. Not so much as to fall back on faith as a means of forgiveness.
  9. Nov 28, 2004 #8
    Either morality system works in this case.
    Yes. That is a part of forgiveness. But can you honestly say that you feel no guilt, even after your admit your faults and "move on" ? Is there no inner feeling of culpability? I surely can not say the same.
  10. Nov 28, 2004 #9
    Well, within the framework outlined involving a God I think it would be completely insane to seek forgiveness from an uninvolved outsider for bumping your own head! We all hurt ourselves from time to time and learning from our mistakes and moving forward is simply part of living a 'normal' life.

    What you consider as being harmful to the mind is unlikely to be 100% in agreement with my own view. You’d have to be more specific; are you talking about drug abuse, believing in spirits, or something else?

    You are saying the mind equates to an inner goodness and morality? Where does inner badness and immorality fit into this same mind? Obviously, sociopaths and other mentally ‘disturbed’ individuals do exist but I haven't yet grown the courage to ask them about this matter…
  11. Nov 28, 2004 #10
    Excuse me for not being clear enough. :smile:

    It is logical to assume that one who does not believe in a higher, Divine power will state that they do not seek forgiveness from him. I am not suprised that noone has mentioned that they sometimes do feel guilt, even after they realize their mistake. I for one, feel guilt for days, weeks, and even months. When i attend confession, i feel redeemed of my sins -- totally guiltless. I am not sure whether it is just my mentality which has been developed with the notion of God, or it is actually true.

    Regarding what i consider as being harmful to the mind. I am indeed talking about drug abuse, adultery, trying to contact evil spirits, or surrendering yourself to them. How do you gain forgiveness for doing such an act? Do you not feel -- for the lack of a better word -- vile?
  12. Nov 28, 2004 #11
    It depends on the mistake in question. I might feel several different ways after bumping my head, for example, but the word guilt in this instance seems inappropriate.

    Well, let me put it this way; you feel totally guiltless following a ‘confession session’. I do not know your situation, what you may have done or be doing to others, etc. Perhaps you ‘earn’ your guilt by injuring other people and never offer to make amends to them. If such is the case then your guiltless state of mind following confession is a farce and you really should be ashamed of yourself. On the other hand, if you were feeling guilty about something like, say, masturbating five or six a day while thinking about having perverted sex with anything and everything imaginable, then your perfectly normal and have nothing to worry about!! :approve:
    Haha, just teasing, go and confess by all means. :biggrin:

    I have only used drugs but don’t feel guilty about it. I do not have sex with married people (my wife would have been able to confirm this) and I make it a point to stay away from churches, so there really is very little going on over here that needs forgiveness. I did attend a Sunday church service once but made a point during the moments of prayer to count the money in my pocket rather than surrender myself to an evil spirit. I did, however, feel just as you described (vile) afterwards when I thought others in attendance may have been led to believe I was ‘of the body’ but there were just too many of them for me to explain the truth to individually. So yes, I did have some guilt but eventually rationalized it away by concluding that all churchgoers should consider it possible, even likely, that they may have unbelievers in their presence. :wink:
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2004
  13. Nov 28, 2004 #12
    I should have addressed this to say of course I would feel guilt. That is, after all, a driving force behind the desire to confront the injured party and offer to make amends (I thought this would have been understood without having to actually say it).
  14. Nov 28, 2004 #13
    Thank you for replying BoulderHead.

    But it seems that you are too centered on the notion of "sin" as being only the cause of affliction or sufferring to someone else.

    How about sin to your own body and soul? No one has answered that sufficiently.
    You stated the example of bumping your head and the incident at Church; but that is not exactly what i mean. How can one rationalize destroying their own soul?

    I recognize that my argument is sort of a circular one. I think that is because it is impossible to ask the question "Can you forgive yourself?" without the acceptance of God.
  15. Nov 28, 2004 #14
    You have answered this question when you said previously;

    “It is logical to assume that one who does not believe in a higher, Divine power will state that they do not seek forgiveness from him.”

    The words ‘sin’ and ‘soul’ have religious connotations inapplicable to someone such as me. I would not ask forgiveness, for example, from a God I have no belief in for a soul I do not have. The problem is not in my answer but in the nature of your question.

    I would beg to differ were the question constrained to worldly affairs; it is possible for nonbelievers to forgive themselves. What really is the effective psychological difference between shrugging one’s shoulders over a mistake then carrying forward or going to confession and carrying forward?

    Truthfully, I think the root problem here is inability on your part to imagine what it must be like to lack belief in a Deity and/or Soul. Well, here is someone just like that, so please ask away as I consider it an honor to be allowed this opportunity to explain.
  16. Nov 28, 2004 #15
    I think you're right with that assumption. But, i think i have already asked you the most important question.
  17. Nov 28, 2004 #16
    why do you need to acceptance of god to forgive yourself? i dont believe in god but i believe that i would be able to level with myself somehow without making up excuses or false reasons as to why i committed such a horrible act.
  18. Nov 28, 2004 #17
    I don't think I would hurt my self, at least not so severely that I would need to seek forgiveness. If I did, then it would probably be because I'm frustrated and seeking a target. So again, I wouldn't be feeling malicious and wouldn't feel the need for forgiveness.

    True, but it begins with a person seeking penance. I do ask forgiveness for being hurtful and willfully mean, but I am always able to forgive/get past (whatever you want to call it) my own sins. This isn't to say I myself wash away the sin, but I am confident that God forgives your sins if you are truly penitent in your soul/heart (which I am).
  19. Nov 28, 2004 #18
    Fair enough.
    How about if i performed a horrific act -- in Christianity's perspective -- which i truly, incredibly regret; i am "truly penitent in [my] soul/heart"m yet i still feel enormously lost. I feel so lost, that in fact, i need someone to forgive me. Or at least, i think i do. Where do i go? What do i do? How do i find myself again?
  20. Nov 28, 2004 #19
    in christianity doesnt god eventually relieve you of your guilt and sins...before entering heaven....and why is forgiveness that big of a deal for you? do you really need the forgiveness of a god? cant you just accept that you can forgive yourself and know that you've done what you can and when you meet god (if there is a god) upon entering heaven everything will be wiped clean>?
  21. Nov 28, 2004 #20
    Fair enough.
    How about if i performed a horrific act -- in Christianity's perspective -- which i truly, incredibly regret; i am "truly penitent in [my] soul/heart"m yet i still feel enormously lost. I feel so lost, that in fact, i need someone to forgive me. Or at least, i think i do. Where do i go? What do i do? How do i find myself again?

    That's actually my metaphor for hell, being lost. I dont' actually believe that you are sent there as a punishment by God (which was made up in the early Church and yes there are many things you could point out that are uncertain and could be "made up", but that's another discussion). If I was lost, then I would cry out for God. I would essentially be a helpless sheep (interpret this whatever way you want).

    Sin, in Greek, actually just means "missing the mark." That's pretty much how I think of it, we are imperfect humans and often mess up. Big whoop, I believe God is real and is there to guide us and grant us grace to wash away our sins. It's the spirit that need to be true, the flesh is weak and it is expected that we will mess up. But it is also expected that we will have a will in accordance with God's.

    Unless you just have a weak sense of self/ego, then I can't help you there.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2004
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