Self-Forgiveness: Bibliotherapy

For any of you book worms, reading can be a great way to learn more and grow emotionally by receiving different perspectives and ways of thinking on difficult topics. This book is just under 70 pages, so an easy read for most people. Oliver Clerc tackles the topic of forgiveness through his book The Gift of Forgiveness: A Magical Encounter with don Miguel Ruiz. Oliver is a book translator and many of you may have heard of the book The Four Agreements, which was written by Don Miguel Ruiz, And before Oliver translated one of his books he wanted to meet him to see if he “walked the talk”. In this book, Oliver completely subverts the normal narrative we have around forgiveness, specifically self-forgiveness. This book deals with philosophy and some religious components, that some may need to take with a grain of salt; however, the overarching message the book brings across is a freeing and compassionate message to the reader not only to those around them but first and foremost to themselves.

Oliver went to Mexico for a spiritual retreat with Don Miguel Ruiz that was going to be translated into French in addition to English and Spanish, since he is a French speaker. There were several other people at this retreat with him as well. Oliver recounts this experience with Don Miguel Ruiz as life changing for several different reasons. The act of this experience that stuck with Oliver the most was when Don Miguel Ruiz asked him to kneel down in front of one of his peers and ask for forgiveness. Oliver said in the moment he was wrapping his brain with what he could have done wrong to her and even began to apologize for something he had thought up in his brain when he was interrupted, and Ruiz said don’t say anything else besides forgive me [their name] and then asked him to do it to every other person in the circle while on his knees. After he went around to everyone in the circle, Ruiz asked him to ask for forgiveness from the devil, God, and himself. Oliver reflects on this experience as one that is life changing for him because of the way that Ruiz explained forgiveness through this practice.

Ruiz explains:

“We use others… we use the devil, God, and most of all ourselves, to hurt ourselves, to stop ourselves from loving, and to let ourselves be trapped in fear and judgments. We refuse to forgive them for what we think they have done to us, when actually it is we who have judged them. Because of our judgments, we have stopped loving them….So it is we who need to ask for forgiveness from them, and not the other way around. We asked others to forgive us for having used them to shut ourselves off from love, while blaming them for our own choice”

Ruiz also specifically outlines that this does not mean that we have to become great friends with the people that have wronged us or not pursue legal action if necessary, but he highlights this practice as releasing ourselves from the judgments that we have placed on ourselves that then project onto those around us. Rory also identifies this outpouring of love as the connection to feeling more joy and freedom in one’s life, because when we feel less judged we feel better. And at the end of the day we judge ourselves the most sometimes. We listen to our inner critic and our inner judge that tells us we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough, or accomplished enough. Forgiving yourself for the way that you judge yourself just as you do to someone else is not something we think about enough. We can be so mean to ourselves and sometimes need a reminder that our judgments aren’t always right. This can decrease self-confidence, self-esteem, and hold us back from our growth or potential. In this way sometimes you stand in your own way. How much we feel judgment from others can sometimes reflect the “direct proportion to the severity of the judgments” we make about ourselves. If we judge ourselves a lot, objections of others can sometimes reflect our own and have a powerful influence over us. If we are more compassionate with ourselves and release the judgment that we have towards ourselves the judgments of others will move freely through us too. Self-compassion encourages learning growth.

At the end of the day forgiveness is an emotional change that occurs within the person that has been wronged, it doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning any wrongdoing. You can forgive a person while in no way believing that their actions were justified or acceptable, even your own. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You’re worthy of forgiveness and you’re also human you make mistakes. Forgiveness is a practice of accepting yourself completely, your shortcomings and all. Self-forgiveness is also a process, it is not overnight, but it’s good to remind ourselves of progress not perfection and continue to take small steps forward when we can to make peace with ourselves.

Self-forgiveness is a complex concept And this book only highlights one way of viewing what this looks like. But at the end of the day extending the compassion that we still often do to others back to ourselves is something that we all need to be reminded of at times. If you haven’t before, take some time this week to notice what your inner critic tells you, are they negative, neutral or even more positive? If this resonated with you or you know someone who needs additional support when it comes to self-compassion and self-forgiveness please contact Life Enhancement counseling services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.


Arielle Teets