I committed a serious crime. How do I forgive myself? | Leading questions
Shame is a way of honouring the people we have wronged. But remaining ashamed too long benefits neither yourself nor those you’ve hurt, says Eleanor Gordon-Smith
Some years ago I committed a serious crime and went to prison. As a result I lost many friends, as well as the job of my dreams. I have not worked since my release. At the time of my offending my lifelong depression was not well handled, and my marriage was teetering on the edge of failure. These are not excuses, but they are reasons why I acted so badly, and so far out of character.
I have served my sentence, rebuilt my marriage and learned a lot. I have beautiful children now, and love them even more than I thought I would. And yet part of me feels like my life is, and always will be, defined by this monstrous failure. The guilt and shame I experience daily sometimes feel like more than I can bear. I never thought of myself as someone who would hurt people, and yet my actions hurt some people very badly. It tortures me. How can I conceive of a contented future when I am not sure I deserve that contentment? I have been forgiven by the people closest to me, but how do I forgive myself?