Is there any difference between saying

Only my condemnation harms me.


Only my own condemnation harms me.

The second sentence feels like is more assertive and enforces the fact that it is my own condemnation that harms me, but is there any other difference in these two ways of expressing the above?

I was recently reading the following page on which one can find the following quote

Only my condemnation injures me. Only my own forgiveness sets me free.

and was wondering why would the author add my own in the second sentence yet skip it in the first.

  • 2
    You really need to tell us more. 'My own condemnation' is potentially ambiguous. 'My own car' clearly means the car which I own. But with an abstract noun like 'condemnation', one needs to be clear about what it is condemnation of. Could 'my own condemnation' mean 'the condemnation of me' (either by myself or another)? Or could it mean 'my own condemnation of something else'that is harming me? Perhaps you could put all this into a wider context.
    – WS2
    Mar 13 '14 at 12:50
  • Similarly, more context is needed for "only my condemnation... but only my own forgiveness..."?
    – nxx
    Mar 13 '14 at 13:18
  • @WS2 I have added the relevant context in form of a link and included the full quote.
    – Jernej
    Mar 13 '14 at 13:23
  • I tend to agree with Edwin in that what they seem to be talking about is 'self-condemnation'. I don't think 'my own condemnation' provides clarity.
    – WS2
    Mar 13 '14 at 13:34
  • @WS2 Actually I wrote "my own condemnation" here. In the text they only say "my condemnation" and "my own forgiveness"
    – Jernej
    Mar 13 '14 at 14:02

"My own condemnation" can be reworded as "the condemnation asserted by myself"; whereas "my condemnation" is very ambiguous, and can mean either "the condemnation asserted by myself" or "the condemnation I face/endure". Therefore, the added "own" provides much clarity as to what is meant.


When you are living with your parents then you can say to your friend, "This is my home" but when you are staying far from your parents and you have your own home then you can say to your friend "I'm living in my own home"


'Only my condemnation harms me' doesn't seem to work at all.

'Only my lack of experience troubles me.' Not my lack of money, my height, my poor eyesight ...

'Only my own condemnation harms me.' I'm not harmed if Jack, Jill and / or Ali condemn me (/ are condemned).

'The only condemnation that can harm me is self-condemnation' might be intended.


"Only my condemnation harms me"

is not very clear. It actually suggests that nothing condemns me except my (own) condemnation, but I'm not sure this is what the writer means.


My condemnation only harms me


My own condemnation only harms me

Note that "only harms me" is still ambiguous: it could mean 1) that it only harms you and no one else, or 2) that "harm" is its only effect on you.

In any case, "My condemnation" means that it belongs to me and could be directed at myself and/or at other people.

"My own condemnation" could be the author's attempt to say "My self-condemnation" (ie, as opposed to condemnation that is directed at others), or they could be trying to emphasise that one's condemnation is their responsibility and their fault and no one else's, and/or that people have their own personal types/styles of condemnation, which could take different forms in different people.


"Only my own forgiveness sets me free"

could mean self-forgiveness or the forgiveness (that is particular to me) that I have for anybody.

The fact that the author goes from "My condemnation" to "My own forgiveness" indicates that some distinction is being made. I would assume that they mean

the condemnation that I have is harmful, but the forgiveness that I give myself sets me free


The adverb "only" often causes ambiguity, since it can attach at various scopes, both forward and backward, and often across unrelated elements. Your first version:

Only my condemnation harms me.

leaves this ambiguity unresolved, so it has at least two possible readings: "No one else's condemnation harms me" (with only attaching to my), and "Nothing other than my condemnation harms me" (with only attaching to my condemnation).

Your second version:

Only my own condemnation harms me.

resolves this ambiguity by changing my (which may or may not be focused) to my own (which necessarily has the focus), making it clear that only attaches to my own; so it can only mean "No one else's condemnation harms me."

The same disambiguating effect can be achieved in speech by stressing/accenting the my, or in writing by using italics/boldface/underline/all-caps/etc.:

Only my condemnation harms me.

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