360° Forgiveness - How Can I Forgive Myself?
The world we live in has conditioned us to accept much less from ourselves than God really intended for us. The Apostle Peter declares it this way: "... you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 NIV.
But it requires the transformation of our minds, and nowhere is this transformation more important than in the area of forgiveness. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2 NIV.
Of all the emotional things that can destroy a life, unforgiveness is number one. Normally, when we think of forgiveness, we think of the other person. But what happens when the person you have to forgive is yourself? Self-forgiveness is critical. Many of us walk around with guilt, regret, shame or disappointment as a result of the decisions we make in life. You must forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made.
In our culture, we are taught to hide our mistakes, but what we hide has power over us. It can sit in the back of our minds and fester, eating away at our self-assurance and our sense of God's love for us, making us feel unworthy. But it's not an issue of whether we are forgiven by God. We are forgiven by God if we ask for it. The harder question becomes: Will I forgive myself?
Let us look at three necessary requirements for forgiving oneself:
1 Come to God for forgiveness
Total forgiveness of oneself requires coming to God for forgiveness. This is the most important step that you can take with your life, no matter what you've done. God's forgiveness enables me to forgive myself. This is more than salvation. It is a forgiveness that speaks to the taunting in my life. We need to know that God forgives us so that we can receive it, and then forgive ourselves in the same way.
There are five important characteristics to God's forgiveness God forgives specifically, instantly, completely, repeatedly, and freely and until you experience God's forgiveness, you won't know what real forgiveness is and you won't be able to offer it to yourself.
The Apostle Paul describes God's forgiveness in Colossians 2:14, "He has forgiven all of your sins. He has utterly wiped out the evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross."
2 Forgive myself to create new opportunities for my future
Peter, one of Jesus' 12 disciples, denied Jesus at the most pivotal moment in His life, but God always had big plans for Peter. Long before this, Jesus said to him, "Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Matthew 16:18 NLT. Jesus said this knowing Peter's faults. He knew what Peter was going to do, and yet He still chose Peter because He knew Peter's potential despite his iniquities.
God has a purpose for you, too. God's plan is for you to receive His forgiveness into your life and then to escape the destructive habits you have and develop new and healthy ones. But it will require some changes to your life:
a) Build new highways (renewing your mind);
b) Obedience to God;
c) A 'bounce-back' attitude: "... though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again ... ." Proverbs 24:17 NIV;
d) Live in community.
3 Accept that God has a purpose for my past
We all come to Jesus with broken lives, wounds, hurts, past mistakes, and God's intention is to heal our past wounds. But He doesn't erase the past. He allows the scars and the weaknesses to remain. Why? So that He can use us as wounded healers to go out and help those who are struggling with the same weaknesses and mistakes. That's how God is best glorified. "... My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT.
In the end, there are two roads that you can take when dealing with unforgiveness in your life.
The first is the road of carrying this baggage around for the rest of our lives. Living unforgiven, not because God won't or hasn't forgiven us, but because we are unable or unwilling to forgive ourselves. Unfortunately, this is the road most travelled. The other is coming to God for forgiveness, changing our patterns from destructive patterns to positive patterns, and then committing to use our past experiences to help others who are going through the same thing.
So, as a child of God, stop condemning yourself. God doesn't condemn you. Recommit your allegiance to God, forgive yourself, and lay down the baggage that you have been carrying around. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 NIV.