To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. – Lewis B. Smedes
If God’s forgiveness is enough for you, how do you explain self-condemnation and lack of self-forgiveness, considering the grace of God?
When we see articles or books on the topic of forgiveness, we expect them to be about how to forgive someone else. Most of us realize the failure to forgive another person can become poison to our souls. But what might happen if we refuse to forgive ourselves?
There is a scene that replays in my mind when I think of self-forgiveness. To set the stage I will tell you I married a man who was charming and ‘spiritual’ and treated me with kindness during our courtship. Traits I had longed for in my previous marriage. He proclaimed his love for me, and I became convinced he was sincere.
It wasn’t true, in less than a year I learned that he was a fraud, a manipulator and a scam artist. By this time, I was emotionally drained and financially devastated.
— Revelation —
With God’s help and direction, I was able to summon enough energy and focus to go forward with my life. When things settled down, I reflected on what had happened and why I was drawn to this man. It became clear to me that red flags had been waving prior to our marriage. It was also obvious that I had ignored these cautions and looked only at what I wanted to see.
Because I had disregarded warning signs that God had clearly provided, responsibility for my plight fell largely to me. I was crushed by the realization. My mantra of ‘how could he have done this to me?’, became one of ‘how could I have been so blind?’.
Immediately I asked God to forgive me for ignoring Him. Soon after, I forgave this man who purposed to deceive me, although he didn’t seek my forgiveness, and I never saw him again.
— There was Something Left Undone —
There remained a sense of unease in my soul, a restlessness I couldn’t seem to shake. I turned to the Lord and asked His forgiveness again, and then pleaded with Him and begged Him to forgive me. I see myself, on several occasions, lying face down on the floor in my living room, crying out to God.
“Please, please God, I know I am undeserving – but please… forgive me.”
He already had, the first time I asked – and my slate had been wiped clean as He promised.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 NASB
Why did I still feel the desperate need for forgiveness? Years went by before I understood – I’d failed to forgive myself. To my way of thinking, I didn’t deserve my own forgiveness. Thoughts like these replayed in my mind: “How could you have been so stupid?” “You ignored God and caused grief for your children.” “You are despicable.” “You deserved what happened.”
— Grace —
Refusal to forgive myself was dishonoring to God. I wasn’t conscious of this fact or that my refusal was a form of disbelief and lack of trust. It was also toxic, my self-condemnation fed into my underlying belief that I was unworthy. And this mindset, deeply ingrained over decades, continued to pave a path to more unfortunate choices.
It took a long time for me to truly forgive myself and the cost was great. But the years of delay did not diminish God’s unfailing love for me.
At a point of deep despair in my life, I asked God’s forgiveness for my disbelief and lack of trust and forgave myself at last for several grievous decisions. It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. A deep peace filled my soul, and a renewed mindset replaced destructive thoughts. Praise God.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts, and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen Psalm 139:23
Is God’s forgiveness enough for you? Is there something you haven’t forgiven yourself for that plagues your mind?
Be encouraged to allow the light of God’s forgiveness to infuse your own. Afford yourself the love and grace and mercy of God.
Be free and be blessed,