Learning to Forgive Yourself

Forgiving someone for betraying us can be difficult.

Take a second and think about the most difficult instance where you had to forgive someone. Who was it? Why was it so hard?

We come across these times in our lives where it is incredibly hard to forgive someone (let’s not even consider the clean up and healing you might have had to do after the fact). Unforgiveness in any capacity places a wedge between us and God. Holding on to hurt that festers into revenge or hardens your heart is contradictory to what we believe we have in God: boundless grace and unlimited forgiveness. We are called to demonstrate these things to one another no matter the offense. Tall order. Big pill to swallow.

What when the person you are trying to forgive is yourself?

We are always in our own thoughts. We know our motives. We know our own strengths and weaknesses. We know what God’s grace has brought forth out of us. And we are mostly aware of the things he still has mercy upon us for. We know what we are capable of, good and bad. We know when we ignore that little voice. We know how long we’ve been running in the wrong direction. We also know how far we’ve come. I think this is why sometimes we are the hardest person for us to forgive.

If I am honest with myself, I have had the hardest time forgiving myself for letting myself down and the people around me down. I have made poor choices. I have been selfish. I’ve failed. I’ve let fear rule my heart. At times, I have been a poor steward of my time, money, and talent. For these reasons and the impact these things have made on my life, I could not forgive myself. I would sit and cry over my life, not realizing I was harboring all this hate and unforgiveness toward myself. I would wonder “what is wrong with me!?” I made so much progress spiritually and emotionally-strides…big, big strides toward freedom-yet I didn’t see it manifesting into the physical. However just like not forgiving betrayers caused a wedge between me and God,  unforgiveness towards my own self was just as detrimental to my relationship with God and my purpose in him.

Letting myself be pitted in my past allowed shame to sneak in. Shame compels us to hide. Wedge. And most likely that is what we do. We hide and we don’t tell anyone about the ache we feel. The regret we feel.  From the hiding comes stagnation. Another wedge. Stagnation is a dangerous place because we only notice we’ve been stagnant after so much time has passed. Stagnation is also dangerous because it prevents you from being the best you possible-it prevented me from being the best me possible.

However this all started with the root of unforgiveness.  Are you having a difficult time forgiving yourself?

For me, I really didn’t know that I was dealing with this. It took time alone. It took being completely vulnerable to God first and then it took coming out of hiding and reaching out to a couple of people in my life. I am still working on this. In fact, as I write this I am dealing with it. To start uprooting this enormous, far-reaching, life sucker out of my life, I had to live out some truths, even if it meant simply going through the motions.

  1.  Be open and honest with God. In the moments following me confessing how I felt about myself to God, were the same moments he showed me I had not forgiven myself. Following those moments he shed light on the shame (thank you Jesus) and following those moments I got a glimpse of the bigger picture. Even though God knows how you feel-even though God knows why you feel that way toward yourself-he wants to show us-he wants us to understand.
  2. God is GoodI have to tell myself this all the time-and not because I don’t believe it but because I’ve had been attacking myself for so long, it had resulted in me thinking “this is life-I will always feel like this”. I started excluding myself from the kingdom of God and the inheritance. This is not what God has for me nor for you. However God can take those dark times in our lives-the times that have us lost in our unforgiveness-and use them for our good. God says he works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). God wants to move us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3)-never backward.
  3. Choose to forgive yourself. Forgiveness from God is instantaneous. Scripture tells us “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness”, (1 John 1). However we are not God. We are called to forgive-including ourselves-but we choose to forgive. After that, it is a process. It is not a feeling, it is a choice. Some days you may not “feel” like forgiving yourself, or that you are, or have. Some days you may have to constantly replace your thoughts towards yourself with what God says about you…Again, you are choosing. Choosing to make those steps towards complete forgiveness.
  4. Speak life over yourself. Turn to see what God says about you.  For this reason, memorizing a scripture or two is powerful. Unforgiveness can lead to immense, deeply rooted, and dark self talk. I try my best to speak scripture over my life before the negative thoughts toward myself start bombarding me and become overwhelming. Jesus gave us his power through our words. Scripture says “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you”, (Romans 8). We are warned about the power in our tongue in Proverbs-that it can call forth life or death (Proverbs 18). So if we have the same power Jesus has (and we are told we can move mountains with this power by faith, Mark 11) it is powerful! As powerful as it is, you are either proclaiming life or death over your situation. Choose life, even when you don’t feel it.

God says you are…
Lavished in love (1 John 3)
Called by name and His (Isaiah 43)
His child (John 1)
Redeemed (Romans 3)
Free from Sin (Romans 8)
Sanctified (1 Corinthians 1)
Righteous (1 Corinthians 1)
a New Creation (2 Corinthians 5)
Chosen and Holy (Ephesians 1)
Blessed (Ephesians 1)
Forgiven (1 John 1)

I encourage you to be patient with yourself-God’s word never fails-it is his perfect timing we must wait on. He sees you trying to move on from your regrets, he sees you making the effort to do so-making yourself available to do so-in fact he is extending grace to you through it all. God has begun great works in you and he will faithfully complete what he has started.

“For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power”
1 Corinthians 4

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