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Why You Can’t Forgive Yourself

Apr 15, 2021

Yesterday I put out the ask to followers on Instagram: what do you want me to talk about? Within minutes, I had multiple men bring up the topic of self-forgiveness. Questions like, “How do I forgive myself for infidelity? For lying? For a business that I ruined?” Friends, this is a big deal. I break down the reasons why we struggle to forgive ourselves, how we need to change how we look at forgiveness, and how it’s intimately tied to our sense of sovereignty. Scroll down for the transcript!


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Full Transcript

All right. Welcome to the ManTalks show. I’m Connor Beaton, and today we are going to be talking about men and self-forgiveness, and why your inability as a man to forgive yourself and do that work is probably one of the main reasons why you are still sabotaging, why you are holding yourself back in life, why your relationship might be stunted or stilted—I mean, the list just goes on and on.

[00:00:24] So,I’ve got a great quote for you by Mark Victor Hansen. He said, “Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self-sabotaging behavior.” Think about that.

[00:00:34] I have found this to be true. That when we as men lack in our ability to forgive ourselves we end up repeating that pattern. We end up sabotaging ourselves down the road in some capacity because we adopt the mentality that we don’t think that we’re worthy for those things that we are attracting, manifesting, creating, building in our lives. And we don’t think that we’re worthy because we haven’t forgiven ourselves for some past action.

[00:01:03] And this becomes really the biggest obstacle that I see a lot of men facing in their lives. They’ve been unfaithful in a relationship, and their partner forgives them, but they don’t know how to forgive themselves. Or what’s holding the relationship back from a deep sense of reconciliation and repair is that the man hasn’t forgiven himself for his infidelities.

[00:01:25] And I see this all the time. I’m addressing this topic because I put out on Instagram, “what questions do you want me to answer?” And I had literally seven men asked me about self-forgiveness. How do I forgive myself for infidelity? How do I forgive myself for lying? How do I forgive myself for the business that I destroyed? Or, you know, whatever the circumstance might be.

[00:01:47] And so I’m going to break this down into a few things, but one of the most important pieces that I want you to know straight out of the gates is that most men cannot and will not forgive themselves simply because they see self-forgiveness as an event rather than an ongoing journey of reconciliation. And that’s the really important piece.

[00:02:12] Self-forgiveness is not a moment in time. It’s not an event that you show up for. It’s not something that you just journal about and then you’ve completely let it go. It is a process of repairing your sense of sovereignty, your sense of self-leadership and your sense of self-respect and self-trust as a man, because when you need self-forgiveness, there’s an automatic “impliance” that you in some way have damaged your capacity to be sovereign, to trust yourself, to have a sense of self-respect. To lead yourself properly and with dignity and with trust and knowing that you’re going to make the right decisions in life.

[00:02:58] And so whenever we have done something—whether it’s in our relationship, our business, our friend circle, our community—that has caused damage to other people, we as men struggle to move past that. We struggle to find self-forgiveness simply because what we’ve actually done—outside of the harm externally, we need to come to grips with the pain that we’ve caused of the people. You know, the damage that we’ve done to relationships, to businesses, depending on the circumstances, to people, to groups, to friends, to family. Outside of the external circumstances of what we have caused other people to experience—their pain—is the damage that we cause ourselves.

[00:03:41] And whenever we have done that kind of external damage, it’s often because first and foremost, we broke a relationship with ourself. We damaged our internal sense of sovereignty, our internal compass, our internal capacity to lead ourselves. And so, what self-forgiveness is really about for a man is embarking on a journey of repairing and reconciling with his own sovereignty. With his own sense of relationship to himself.

[00:04:17] It’s a very sometimes spiritual quest. It’s a very restorative journey that a lot of men will need to embark on. But for many men, it is one of the greatest journeys that they will embark on because when they reach a place of knowing when they’ve embarked on this journey of self-forgiveness, who they were in the past cannot be the same.

[00:04:39] So they, go through a kind of hero’s journey. And if you look at a lot of hero’s journeys, what you’ll actually see is a man who—a sort of “pre-hero” that doesn’t fully trust himself, and is trying to prove something to himself, that is being called out into the world to look for treasure. And in many cases, that treasure for a man is self-trust. It’s self-leadership, it’s self-sovereignty. It’s a capacity of sovereignty that he didn’t embody before. And when we gain that treasure, when we gain that sense of self-trust and self-sovereignty and self-respect and self-leadership, then we can go back out into the world and bring our strengths and bring our gifts back to our community. Back to our relationship. And we can be of service back in those spaces.

[00:05:31] And so for many of us, what we actually need to prioritize in our lives right now is embarking on the journey of self-forgiveness because buried within that, inevitably, is that we will need to face some of our deepest demons. It’s the realization that the one thing that you don’t want to do—you’re going to have to have incredibly tough conversations with people that you’ve hurt. That you may have damaged. You are going to have to sit in incredibly uncomfortable positions of not knowing if you’re doing or saying the right thing. You’re going to have to be with the fact that maybe you don’t trust yourself worth shit. That you just don’t at all.

[00:06:09] And so to repair that part to reconcile with that part is a really powerful journey that a man can embark on, but we have to let go of the notion that it’s a one-and-done thing. That we’re going to sit down and journal and say, “I forgave myself and that what I did was wrong, and I know that it was wrong and I’ve felt sad about it. And there we go, all said and done.” That’s not the case.

[00:06:33] We have to adopt and start to embody a deeper understanding, a deeper wisdom that self-forgiveness is a process that needs to unfold that requires very specific action from us.

[00:06:46] And so, I want to describe from what I have seen and from what I’ve had to do in my own life in finding a sense of reparation with damaging my own sense of sovereignty, damaging my own sense of self-leadership and self-trust, some of those key pieces.

[00:07:02] So first and foremost, what are the conversations that you need to have? What are the conversations that need to be had with the people that maybe you broke trust with, that you were unfaithful to, that you lied to, or that you damaged in some capacity? That’s first and foremost. You need to be able to address the external.

[00:07:21] Secondly, is what do you not want to feel? What I’ve noticed with a lot of men is that when they break their sense of internal sovereignty and self-leadership, shame becomes this sort of wellspring that pops up and replaces the flow of their emotions. And so behind their anger, behind their sadness, behind their frustration or wanting things to progress faster is just this immense amount of shame.

[00:07:50] And behind that shame is usually a deep quality of grief, a deep quality of sorrow that the damage that they caused was really detrimental. They can really see, and they come into contact with a quality of grief and sadness and sorrow that they didn’t know existed before. If you have ever been unfaithful and did it on somebody that you love. That you love deeply. And then you see in their eyes, the pain, the deep pain of the betrayal that you caused is to meet a quality of grief and sadness that maybe you didn’t know existed before. Or maybe you’ve experienced somewhere in your own life before and so it activates that part that maybe hasn’t been dealt with.

[00:08:34] So what do you not want to feel? What are you avoiding feeling? The next thing is that we need to go on a mission to let go of that shame, and that might look like many things, right? It might look like working with a men’s group, working with a therapist, working with a coach or a psychologist, entering into conversations with people that you trust to be able to be transparent, not only about your actions, but to allow other people to mirror back to you that maybe you’re not the monster that you think you are. That maybe you’re not as broken or as damaged as you might think you are. But also, to hold you in the space of—if you’re trying to move through this too quickly. If you’re like, “I had a good conversation and I’m done, and I don’t feel as sad or anything like that”, to have people hold you in that space to say, “No, you actually need to be with this.”

[00:09:24] So you need to go on a mission to move through shame properly and to allow whatever is behind it—sadness, grief, sorrow, et cetera—to come forward and be witnessed by and with other people. People that you trust, people that you respect and people that you know are going to be able to hold you.

[00:09:42] The last piece is to ask yourself the question: what about my sovereignty was broken in the first place? What about my sovereignty, what about my self-trust was broken in the first place?

[00:09:56] Because you clearly were trying to either test this part of yourself, you didn’t believe in this part of yourself, you were looking for proof that you could trust yourself, some iteration of that.

[00:10:07] And then once you have that answer, the next question is: what would it look like for me to develop this quality of sovereignty, this quality of self-leadership of self-trust? And embarking on that journey is going to be the reparation that is needed. Is going to be the repair to that torn, damaged, and eroded relationship with your own sovereignty, with your own self-leadership with your own self-trust that is required to bring us to this sort of “well” of self-forgiveness. Because when we have repaired and rebuilt that quality, that inner virtue of self-leadership and self-trust and sovereignty, when we arrive there—whatever that arrival might look like, right? It’s not, again, it’s not a destination per se—but when we have that knowing and that embodiment of, “Ah, I can trust myself now. I know that I’m good. I’m not going to continue to be unfaithful in relationships. I’m not going to continue to gamble” or to get blackout drunk,” or to, you know, whatever it is that you did that broke your word with yourself and with another. Or with yourself and with another group.

[00:11:22] When you have developed that quality of deep knowing and trust within yourself, the forgiveness will have been there. The forgiveness will be there because who you have become and the work that you have done and the conversations that you’ve had and the hard feelings that you have allowed yourself to enter into, become the stepping stones in the bricks that end up being the foundation of self-forgiveness.

[00:11:51] And as Tim Ferriss said, “Success is determined by the amount of uncomfortable conversations that you are willing to have.” And self-forgiveness, my friends, requires a tremendous amount of uncomfortable conversations, not only about our actions with other people, but with our actions of betraying ourself. And so, if you have betrayed another, in whatever circumstance, the pathway to self-forgiveness is by understanding yes, how you betrayed them. Yes, the pain you caused them. Yes, the damage that was done on their side. All of that needs to be prioritized first and foremost, and simultaneously to be able to look at how you betrayed yourself, how you damaged and eroded yourself.

[00:12:32] And when we can do that, when we can marry those two processes together, self-forgiveness will be possible. And there’s a quality of liberation and freedom that will come out of it. Your life might look different. Your relationships will surely change. And you as a man will find a quality of grounding of maturity, of presence, of direction that maybe you didn’t have before.

[00:12:57] So thank you so much for tuning into this episode, into this little session, please share comment below. How have you struggled with self-forgiveness? What would you add? What do you do disagree with? Maybe you don’t like this. This video is up on YouTube and Instagram. And so, if you’re tuning into this on the podcast and you want to see this video definitely head on over there, but don’t forget to man it forward. Share this episode, this video with just one person. It goes a long way. To getting this onto the phones and into the years of other people. So, thank you so much for tuning in. I’m Connor Beaton. See you next week.