Forgiving Yourself

The hardest person to forgive can be ourselves. Long after we have forgiven others, we can be in bondage to feelings of guilt. We disappoint ourselves. We lose trust in ourselves.

  • Shame, which tends to result from being victimized, can make us feel unworthy of self-forgiveness. It can create a false sense of guilt.
  • The end of a relationship can seem like failure, also causing feelings of guilt, even if we had little control over the situation.
  • We may feel guilty because we can't seem to "let go" of the trauma. It is good to remember that what might seem like unforgiveness might actually be untreated post-traumatic stress, which can cause intrusive memories.

Satan, the accuser, wants to torment us with guilt (Revelation 12:10). But we have a high priest who intercedes on our behalf before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25). His blood covers us and takes away our sin completely:

…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14, NIV)

Note the words, "being made holy"-- it is an on-going process (Philippians 2:12). The blood of Jesus covers us during this course of learning here on earth. That is why "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1, NIV). When we confess our sins to God, we have the assurance that "he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9, NIV). God in his mercy has already provided the atoning sacrifice that will purify our consciences, and will even make our bodies clean:

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22, NIV)

This forgiveness does not come by anything we can do on our own, for the Bible says that on our own, "nothing good" is in us (Romans 7:18). Our lives are based on letting God's own spirit work through us, to do what we could never do on our own:

May the God of peace, …equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom he glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21, NIV)

We also have the comfort and assurance of knowing that because forgiven sins can not separate us from God, he will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) !

If our deeds or attitudes have harmed someone, there may be actions we can take to mitigate the situation. The Bible calls these "amends", and "restitution."  Making amends can help us to bring peace to a situation, and settle our hearts about a matter, opening the door for self-forgiveness. Jesus said:

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."  (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)

Asking for forgiveness from another is also a form of amends. Seeking forgiveness and being forgiven can be a wonderfully freeing experience. It is also humbling, and our pride can prevent us from seeking this freedom. If we don't take this step when we know we should, we may only feel worse about ourselves.

If there seems to be little we can do to make amends or repair a situation, it is never too late to apply the power of prayer and the blood of Jesus Christ. Prayer reaches beyond time, space, and all barriers. As God's children we do our best, and leave the rest to God.


Discussion Question:

  1. Is there something you blame yourself for in a domestic violence situation?
  2. Think about the slogan, "I do my best, and leave the rest to God." Is there a situation you feel bad about, and need to place in God's care?

Copyright 2005   Judy Kennedy