3 Reasons for Grace After a Relapse




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Carl Thomas

Pastor | Live Free Founder | Lover of Jesus, Philly sports, fitness, tattoos, sarcasm, and craft beers.

Let’s be honest, life is a journey, and it’s hardly ever an easy one.

There are ups, and there are downs. And, for many of us, setbacks and relapses are an unavoidable part of the process. 

Whether it’s recovering from addiction, managing mental health challenges, or striving for personal growth, setbacks can be discouraging. I get it. No one likes a relapse. However, it is crucial to remember that showing grace to ourselves during these challenging times is not only beneficial but essential for our well-being. 

Here are three reasons I believe we should embrace self-compassion and grace after experiencing a relapse.

1. A relapse forces us to acknowledge our humanity.

As human beings, we are inherently fallible. We make mistakes, experience setbacks, and sometimes find ourselves slipping back into old patterns. We might not like to admit this fact, but that’s the harsh reality nonetheless.

However, it is crucial to remember that a relapse does not define you. 

Rather than berating yourself for your perceived failure, you should acknowledge your humanity and accept that setbacks are a natural part of any growth process. In fact, research studies emphasize the importance of self-compassion and how it positively impacts our mental health. 

For example, a 2007 study found that individuals who practiced self-compassion after failure showed greater emotional resilience and overall psychological well-being. Therefore, by extending grace to yourself, you can develop a sense of self-acceptance and resilience necessary for navigating the many challenges that arise during recovery.


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2. A relapse is a learning opportunity.

While relapses may seem discouraging, they also offer extremely valuable learning opportunities. When you approach a relapse with self-compassion and grace, you can shift your perspective and use the experience as a stepping stone for growth. 

Instead of dwelling on the setback, you can examine the triggers, circumstances, and underlying factors that led to the relapse. This type of self-reflection allows you to identify areas for improvement, develop coping strategies, and ask better questions.

In fact, by viewing setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, you take on a “growth mindset”, which enables you to emerge from difficulties even stronger and better prepared for future challenges.

3. A relapse helps break the cycle of shame:

One of the most damaging aspects of relapse is the potential for shame and self-blame. These emotions can trap us in a negative cycle, hindering progress and perpetuating harmful behaviors. As I say in my book “When Shame Gets Real”

“This is why one of the most damaging aspects of shame at the end of the day is its uncanny ability to completely erode and obliterate any sense of self-confidence, self-assurance, and the will to change that reality.

Struggling with chronic shame is like being punched in the crotch over, and over, and over again. But here’s the kicker…

The one punching you, is you. And despite the pain, tears, and broken dreams, you keep punching because you inwardly believe that you deserve the punishment you are extracting on yourself and have no faith that you could stop even if you wanted to.”

However, when we practice self-compassion, we can break free from this cycle and cultivate a healthier and more positive mindset. Because when we treat ourselves with kindness, understanding, and forgiveness, we dismantle the shame and self-blame that often accompany relapses. 

This creates space for healing, growth, and renewed motivation to continue our journey towards recovery and personal development.

Understand, relapses can be challenging and emotionally draining, both for you and the ones you love.  And showing yourself grace after the fact is not the same as letting yourself “off the hook” or failing to own your mistakes. But relapses don’t have to be a roadblock to your recovery. Rather, they can help you foster resilience, self-acceptance, and a growth mindset necessary for navigating the twists and turns of life.

In the end, a relapse does not define you. It happened, there’s nothing you can do about it after the fact. But your response to that relapse is what matters the most moving forward.

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