Rurouni Kenshin: A Quest For Self-Forgiveness

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Enright and the Human Development Study Group (1996, p. 116) pioneered the definition of  self-forgiveness as “a willingness to abandon self-resentment in the face of one’s acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity, and love toward oneself.”

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Dr Venetia Leonidaki, clinical psychologist and founder of Spiral Psychology emphasises the benefits of self-forgiveness to other areas of life. These include:

  • Reducing the risk of anxiety and depression
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Cultivating a sense of hopefulness
  • Resolving feelings of guilt and self-blame
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Maintaining our ability to be empathetic and compassionate towards others

Self-forgiveness does not have a one-size-fits-all approach and everyone’s journey of healing will be different. However, there are some key common steps on the road to self-forgiveness:


1. Accept responsibility

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Accepting responsibility refers to acknowledging the wrong that you’ve done and the hurt that you may have caused to others. This includes accepting what happened instead of forgetting or ignoring the events. Also, it requires showing compassion to yourself instead of self-punishment or wallowing in shame. Although it seemed that he was a carefree spirit, Kenshin lived in the shadow of his past every day.


2. Normalise feeling guilty

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Having guilt about a bad choice we made tells us that we still are aware of right and wrong. While it’s an unpleasant feeling, its presence is important and can serve as motivation for us to do better next time. Kenshin embodies this in his fervour to turn over a new leaf and protect others instead of harming them.


3. Separate our wrongdoings from our core self

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Kenshin shed the name Hitokiri Battousai and committed himself to protecting others, trusting the nature of his core self to be good despite his past. It is important to remember that having made bad choices does not mean that you are a bad person. Shame can make you feel this way and sabotage your efforts towards self-improvement and self-forgiveness. We can break free from this negative pattern by challenging the shame-based thoughts that arise. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • How do I know it’s true?
  • What proof do I have that supports this claim?
  • What experiences do I have that show that this belief is not completely true all the time?
  • Is this thought helpful or hurtful?


4. Take steps towards making amends

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One way to move towards self-forgiveness is by taking actions to make amends. This is about taking concrete actions to right the wrong. Doing so helps prove to ourselves that we are committed to doing better. A good way to begin this process is to apologise to the party we have hurt. A sincere apology should:

  • Acknowledge the hurt caused
  • Admit that your actions were wrong
  • Explain why you regret it
  • Describe what you would do differently in the future


Here are some Shadee.Care articles on related topics:


The Hunger Games: When our past dictates our future

The Hunger Games: when our past to dictates our future


Guardians of the Galaxy 3: Freedom from a painful past

Guardians of the Galaxy 3: Freedom from a painful past.


Ms Marvel – Realm of Self-acceptance

Ms Marvel – Realm of Self-acceptance

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