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Question of the Month: What About the Need to Forgive Ourselves?

Self-forgiveness comes up a lot in my work.

What I have learned in my journey is that self-forgiveness is equally as important as forgiving another. At some level we have all caused harm to people who are closest to us. This then creates a festering wound of guilt that precludes us from functioning at our potential and robs us of a life of peace and happiness.

I have found that self-forgiveness is harder than forgiving people who have harmed us. In my 2-day Forgiveness Workshop, I facilitate an experiential practice, the same one that helped me to forgive the killer of my son and also to forgive myself.

My journey of forgiving Tony was to partner with his grandfather in creating a successful Foundation (, which is now in its 23rd year. I also met Tony who took my son’s life five years after the tragedy. Tony is now 37 and finally going in front of the parole Board in October of this year. I along with my daughter Tasreen (who serves as the Executive Director of her brother’s foundation) will be there to support his parole.
We are hopeful and confident that he will get his parole (please keep him in your prayers) and then join his grandfather, the TKF team and me. Tony is studying to be a child psychologist and is an articulate writer who is committed to stopping many young people from following his former footsteps when he joined a gang at age 11 and then killed my son when he was 14.
So, I see Tony to be an amazing resource for TKF, and while in my heart of hearts I know we have saved him, he will save thousands of other young men when he joins TKF. This will greatly honor my son Tariq and demonstrate the power of forgiveness.

However – I too had to look at myself in terms of self-forgiveness. You cannot get to peace without doing both. My major guilt was I did not spend enough time with Tariq.

No parent thinks their children will die before they do. While I was always in their lives living in different cities I was not there for many important events in my children’s lives. I was the father but not the dad. Six months before he died I sponsored a trip for him, my daughter and his mother to visit Kenya. From there he sent a postcard saying, “Dad, I wish you were here.” That tore up my heart after he passed, as I could have been there with him.
This story reminds me now of a time after John Lennon was assassinated. His wife Yoko Ono was asked by a journalist, “This must be hard for you because John and you were together 90 percent of the time” She responded, “Now we are together 100 percent of the time.”
Now I spend my time every day repeating Tariq’s name and partnering with his spirit in the work of his foundation named after him. So, in a way I am now spending a lot of time with his spirit to make up for the time I did not spend with him when he was alive. Often when I am home eating dinner, I put my favorite photo of him on the dining room table and light a candle. I tell him the good work being done in his foundation. He probably knows all of that, but I enjoy telling him anyway. Having been blessed with three grandchildren who live close to me, I am spending more time with them than I did with my own kids.
And because of this, self-forgiveness has helped me.
Self-forgiveness is about changing your offending behaviors – hard to do for me – and make amends and commit to a journey of redemption. So, when you are dealing with self-forgiveness, look at your mistakes. That is how we learn. We can make the appropriate amends, change our behaviors and help others not make the same mistake we made. That will help you forgive yourselves.
Remember you are a child of God and your spirit is pure. And by doing this you will get closer to your journey of enlightenment – a life of peace and happiness. This has worked for me; it can work for everybody.

Azim Khamisa

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