My belief is that self-forgiveness is the most important aspect of the forgiveness topic. If you can’t release past mistakes and heal old wounds of your own, then how can you have enough love and compassion inside you to forgive those who you believe have wronged you? What we are holding and feeling inside ourselves is what tends to overflow out to others we interact with. If we are harbouring emotions like anger, hatred or shame towards ourselves, this is what will become the energy we project to others. If self-love, self-respect and compassion for oneself are absent or in short supply, we will be miserly with these qualities externally. It is difficult to give generously to others what we don’t have an adequate supply of ourselves.

Forgiveness of the self has to precede real forgiveness of others. It frees us and returns us to our natural state of love and self-centered calmness. In turn we can radiate and share that sense of peace and harmony with others.

When we have thought, said or done something contrary to our deeper values it causes an internal conflict, which in turn causes emotional stress. The flow-on effect of his emotional stress is physical stress which results in disease of most of our body’s operating systems e.g. nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, endocrine system, immune system etc. Numerous reports have indicated that when important body systems like these are compromised (or are in a dis-eased state) serious illness and diseases can result or be seriously aggravated. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, intestinal disorders, obesity and mental illness are just a few of the many known to be affected by internal stress.

Persistent self-directed negative emotions (especially if harboured for many years) certainly contribute to our mental and physical state of unwell-being and cause disease. So the effects of non-forgiveness of ourselves is two pronged; it directly harms us personally, and it impacts the relationships and interactions we have with others at an emotional level. The latter may at times be subtle, though if we aren’t content and at peace within ourselves it will be sensed by others.

Another repercussion of harbouring ongoing negative emotions about ourselves is the tendency to seek other external methods of feeling good. These are often in the form of substance abuse like alcohol and drugs to mask how we are really feeling, though can also include habits like gambling and diet issues. As I discuss in my Alcohemy book and self-help programs, I first formed an alcohol habit then serious alcohol dependence, in an attempt to feel better and cope with issues stemming back to my childhood and early teens. As my book reveals, it only made things much worse and until I released the bonds those issues had on me I was never going to feel better. Self-forgiveness was such an integral part of the process I developed to release the need for alcohol and to become permanently alcohol-free, without even the desire for it. Before I could heal the emotional wounds I attributed to others, I first had to heal those I created myself and that involved self-forgiveness.