“Choosing not to forgive yourself is like being the judge, jury, and defendant of your life all at once,” wrote Dr. John Delony a mental health expert who earned two Ph.D.’s from Texas Tech University.
“We put ourselves on trial on an almost daily basis and write our own sentence of condemnation,” Delony observed. “Most of us talk to ourselves in ways that we would never let someone talk to our kids or our neighbors. But we have no problem condemning ourselves. The good news about self-forgiveness is that you can choose to slam down the gavel, dismiss the court, and let yourself off the stand.”
In our first post, we discussed why we can’t forget ourselves. In the second, we considered some of the consequences of not forgiving ourselves. Today, we want to ask and answer, “How Can We Forgive Ourselves?”
#1 Recognize and Admit the Problem.
No issue is ever resolved until we face it. Acknowledge it. Accept it. And admit it.
Dr. Delony counsels, “If you want to forgive yourself, you’ve got to start by identifying the specific hurts—regrets, mistakes, and decisions—that you’re carrying around.” Add to that list sins against God and other people.
Paul’s admonition, “Examine yourself” is a great place to begin (2 Cor 13:5). Take a look into the mirror of God’s Word and see yourself as God really sees you.
King David, when confronted with his adulterous affair and subsequent deception admitted his immorality and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).
#2 Repent of your sins.
Repentance begins with recognition, but leads to remorse, resolve, reformation, and when possible restitution.
The Bible says, “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).
The word repent literally means “to perceive afterwards.” It implies a change of mind. Of heart. Of will. Of purpose. Bible commentator A. T. Robertson says repent means to, “Change your mind and your life.”
One can never truly forgive themselves until things are made right with God and with others who may have been offended and affected. Thus, James exhorts, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).
#3 Realize God has forgiven you.
If you’re truly sorry for your sin and have really repented, asking God’s forgiveness, then God has forgiven you. Period.
Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah promises, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isa 43: 25).
God’s grace, love, and mercy in forgiving our sins are described by Micah in these powerful and comforting promises.
Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
You can forgive yourself because God does. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:7-9).
#4 Reaffirm Your Trust in God and His Word.
David’s statements reaffirmed his realization of God’s forgiveness and his trust in His Word.
…You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
…You are my hiding place.
…You preserve me from trouble
…You surround me with songs of deliverance.
C. S. Lewis offers a sobering perceptive on the importance of forgiving ourselves.
“I think if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman