“Forgiveness is never easy. But forgiving yourself can be the most challenging type of forgiveness out there,” observed Psychologist, Dr. Brad Brenner.
“Like it or not, self-forgiveness takes work that requires both compassion and empathy,” Brenner wrote in a post “How To Forgive Yourself: Moving On From the Past.”
Brenner points out that a mistake, error in judgment, or even an egregious moral failure, does not have to define who we are. While the action was wrong, we can rise above it. Make amends for it. Grow from it. And become a bigger and better person.
In our first three posts, we examined specific issues that, if you have not read, you need to read before reading further.
Today, in this fourth and final installment of this series, we want to ask and answer…What Happens When We Forgive Ourselves?
1. Past Sin Becomes Irrelevant.
The second-century theologian, Augustine, is generally regarded as the greatest of the early “church fathers.” His writings are classics. And he is often quoted. However, Augustine was not baptized until he was 32 years old. Prior to his conversion, he was engaged in a 10-year illicit relationship.
The story is told that one day following his conversion, he was approached by his former mistress. When Augustine saw her, he turned and quickly walked the other way.
The woman followed after him, calling out, “Augustine! It’s me! It’s me!”
Quickening his pace, the new believer called back, looking over his shoulder, “Yes, I know. But it’s no longer me.”
Like the apostle Paul, he did not allow his past to define him, or describe him, or divert his discipeship. Paul, the former persecutor, turned preacher and apostle offers his wonderful perspective.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).
How could Paul do this, given his abhorrent and hurtful persecution of Christians?
His answer is our answer.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
2. We enjoy the gift of God’s Grace
Self-forgiveness allows us to receive and revel in God’s grace. Paul exclaimed, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” And he further affirmed that God’s grace was not given to him in vain (1 Cor. 15:10).
When we say, “I don’t deserve to be forgiven,” we’ve missed the point of grace. It’s unmerited favor. Undeserved kindness. Unearned divine blessings.
In Ephesians 2, Paul speaks of Christians whose past life was dominated by the devil. They were dead in sin. And doomed eternally. But the God of all grace intervened.
In his commentary on Ephesians, Dr. Charles G. Caldwell explained it this way:
“Grace is an undeserved blessing. Grace manifests God’s attitude of love and pity for sinful man in relieving him of guilt. To justify such relief by grace, God provided the sacrifice of His Son. To inform us of his grace, God provided special revelation. To teach us how to receive His grace, God provided the gospel made known in that revelation.”
Through God’s grace, we can receive His forgiveness. And we can forgive ourselves.
3. We are able to Freely Proclaim Salvation to Others.
Forgiving ourselves allows us to be a living, breathing testimony to God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Our subsequent attitude and actions demonstrate the power of the gospel and the practical difference it makes in our lives.
When King David received forgiveness for his moral failure, he penned these encouraging words:
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
Yes, even through the bitter tears of our sins, we can forgive ourselves. Find joy. And use the adversity to help others.
It’s our prayer this series will serve as a catalyst to self-forgiveness.
Finally, seriously reflect on these final words.
Forgiving yourself fortifies your faith. Reassures your hope. And deepens your love for the Lord.
Forgiving yourself helps you to forgive others. Draws you closer to God. And strengthens you spiritually.
Forgiving yourself cleanses your conscience. Restores your joy. Revives your spirit. And soothes your soul.
Forgiving yourself puts the past in proper perspective. Provides peace for the present. And makes the future an exciting prospect.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman