Mistakes, Regrets and Self-Forgiveness

We all make decisions we later regret. For many of us, this happens much more frequently than we like to admit. Our culture supports, defends, even molds this denial of imperfection through media, advertising, etc. leaving us with the concept that idealistic perfection exists, and we can all have it if we all look just like the emaciated models, buy the right car, have the right job and friends, live in the right neighborhood.  Most of us know that this is myth and marketing deception, but we get ourselves wrapped up in it to some degree anyway.

It is, in my opinion, when we can let loose our tight grip and angst for perfection, when we can start admitting our mistakes to ourselves and others, that we can then have the freedom to make better choices. Not only can we learn from our mistakes, we can clear out the emotional space to be more able to make more rational choices.

Notably, some mistakes are more devastating than others. Some can result in real trauma or loss, which can lead one into a lifetime or shame and self-degradation. Aiding our clients in clearing out shame, guilt and overburdened regret is essential in order for them to have the potential for self-forgiveness, acceptance and confident humility.

This process of self-forgiveness, an integral piece of RFT, is truly acknowledging wrongdoings done with grace, letting go self-imposed penalties, self-regret, hatred or other forms of disregard.  It is also about being able and willing to make amends and correcting hurtful behavior where and when possible in context of relating to others. (Halling, 2006)

Respect needs to come from a place of authenticity and symmetrical balance to have any true validity. (3)

Forgiveness gives credence to positive possibility in our lives and opens the door to making better choices. Help clients learn to embrace mistakes and learn to use them wisely in the future. Short of mistakes, there will be many hard decisions, not necessarily labeled good or bad, which, unfortunately, involve sacrifice, pain and/or loss.  But so is there much greater chance for real, sustainable and substantive joy and peace when we are willing to believe in ourselves enough to take risks, that are not completely calculated, but also based on our faith, sense of values, a daring expectation for good to come from it and, always, the willingness to attach responsible action behind it.

RFT Book Cover


Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.