1 John 3:20 – “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” NKJV
I have said, and heard others say, “I can forgive others, but forgiving myself is hard.” Why is that? What are the root causes of this phenomenon? I will brave dark and troubled waters in this devotional and hopefully help myself and others to deal with this real problem. It is a very real problem!
With the myriad of passages from God’s Word that speak of forgiveness, why would forgiving ourselves be a problem? Considering 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In Matthew 6:14-15 we discover that if we forgive others God will forgive us, but if we refuse to forgive them, He will withhold forgiveness from us. Colossians 3:13 teaches us to be patient and longsuffering with others forgiving just as Christ has forgiven us. Romans 8:1 declares that those who are “in Christ” are free from condemnation. Ephesians 4:32, speaks of putting aside bitterness, anger, clamor, slander, and malice and exhibit kindness to others and forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us. Proverbs 19:11, admonishes us to be wise through patience and demonstrate our character through forgiveness. Those are a few of the many verses that speak of forgiveness.
Therefore, we know that God’s Promise is to Forgive and the powerful promise in 1 John 1:9 cannot be dismissed. Although forgiving ourselves is not specifically addressed with chapter and verse in the Bible, it is there. I am convinced there are some culprits at work in stealing our Peace and Joy through the failure to forgive ourselves.
God is not a respecter of persons and if His provision of Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness is not extended to some but withheld from others. No, if we repent, ask His forgiveness, and turn from our sin, He has promised to forgive and never hold that against us again (Jeremiah 31:34). Why then is it so difficult to forgive ourselves? I believe there are several factors and one of the is TRUST. Don’t boil the oil yet and turn me off. If we truly TRUST God’s Promises and Provisions and believe that He has forgiven us, what is the problem? The problem can likely be found in the fact that we either are not sure that He has forgiven us or in PRIDE.
Salvation cannot be earned. It is not deserved. You do not earn enough brownie points to become a member of the beloved, the family of God. It is GRACE, through Faith and the Gift of God. If Salvation could be earned it would not be Grace and Jesus would not have needed to go to the Cross. It cannot, and we know it, preach it, testify of it, and hopefully believe it. But, yes, I have put ‘but’ in the mix. But if we have a latent tendency to believe that we must ‘work’ to please God and ‘earn’ his favor we will find it difficult to forgive ourselves.
Pride comes into the equation when we say or think, “I know better. I should have done better. I expect better from myself.” That’s Pride. That’s attempting to ‘earn’ your forgiveness and salvation. That is making it more about you and me than about God and His incredible longsuffering and mercy. It involves enacting a different set of standards or rules for ourselves than for others. That is Pride because you just elevated yourself above others and said in that mindset, “I Am Better Than They.” Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” When we fail to forgive ourselves, we open the door for self-destructive attitudes and actions. We open the door to Phariseeism and become as the publican in Jesus’ parable, beating ourselves in the chest and declaring our goodness.
Wait, Roy? How can I be self-righteous if I am failing to forgive myself? It is because we are pridefully elevating ourselves above others and in a very real sense stripping God of His demonstration of mercy to us. Some that I have encountered who cannot forgive themselves developed a self-destructive mindset, a haughty spirit, and lived in the total absence of Peace! In forgiving ourselves we demonstrate to those under our influence that anyone can make a mistake and sin, but when we do we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous and HE FORGIVES! We demonstrate our TRUST in Him and His Promises. We demonstrate HUMILITY, not arrogance and pride. We show them that failure in one thing is not defeat, but a temporary setback.
When we learn to forgive ourselves and fully Trust God’s Grace and Promises we find new doors for helping others. Let me give you a prayer that I saw some time back and ask that you read it and if it resonates with you embrace and incorporate it into your life.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I understand that there is nothing to gain by holding myself in unforgiveness and there is everything to gain by releasing myself from unforgiveness and beginning the process of healing. I want to move forward and make a positive difference in the future. I confess the ungodly accountability, self-abasement, and the vows I have made to never forgive myself. Because Jesus died for my sins, I choose to forgive myself–to no longer punish myself and be angry with myself. I forgive myself for letting this hurt control me and for hurting others out of my hurt. I repent of this behavior and my attitude. I ask for Your forgiveness and healing. God, help me to NEVER again retain unforgiveness of myself or others. Thank you for loving me and for Your grace to move forward with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
God bless you and may your day be full and productive in Him!