When you mess up, you may find your mind reviewing it over and over. It’s not helpful to relive mistakes and disappointments, yet we get trapped there sometimes. The key to our jail cell is self-forgiveness.

Mary Hayes Grieco is the author of “Unconditional Forgiveness: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything” and the director of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training in Minneapolis.   

“Forgiveness,” she says, “is the profound and refreshing relief that comes when you release an expectation that has been causing you to suffer.” She has divided Forgiveness – and self-forgiveness – into clear, achievable steps. The forgiveness process can be greatly supported with journal writing.

Last week, I wrote about forgiving a disappointing situation. This week, I’ll describe her steps for self-forgiveness.

The Steps of Self-Forgiveness (with journaling prompts)

Step One: Prepare for self-forgiveness; decide to stop beating yourself up and move forward. Grieco suggests that you envision a loving power “listening compassionately and waiting to grant you the relief of self-forgiveness.” In your journal: “it’s time to stop beating myself up and move forward.”

Step Two: Talk out your problem in detail with your Higher Self and ask it to help you. Focus on your thoughts and feelings. Tell the whole story. Describe the sensations in your body. Honor and release your emotions until you start to feel your mood lighten. In your journal: “here’s what happened… I feel…”

Step Three: Connect with your Higher Self and lift yourself to its level of consciousness. Lift above the level of emotions. Remind yourself of things that you are good at and your good qualities. Look at the situation with compassion. In your journal: “I am so much more than one mistake. I am…”

Step Four: Send love and light to yourself, exactly as you are, from this higher level. Look at yourself from a wise, compassionate, and expansive perspective. Send yourself loving messages of forgiveness and release. In your journal: write yourself a letter of love and release from shame.

Step Five: Give thanks for the forgiveness and take in your new perspective. Take some deep breaths. Notice how it feels to be forgiven and note any new understanding and clarity. In your journal: “now that I feel lighter… I understand…”

I recommend you finish up by treating yourself kindly: take a bath, have a warming drink, look at something beautiful.

It took me some time to figure out why Greico’s process seems so ornate to me. I realized it’s because I am a meditator. Every time my awareness moves away from my breath, I identify it as “thinking,” and tenderly bring my attention back to the breath. That’s practicing self-forgiveness. My teacher’s insistence that it be a kind move is what drew me to practicing with her. Years of meditating mean years of practicing self-compassion and forgiveness.

Everybody makes mistakes. Learning to forgive ourselves, we can move forward spreading light and love.

Visit forgivenesstraining.com for a more detailed description of Grieco‘s process.