How can I forgive myself?

It is difficult to wrap our brains around God’s call to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). We’ve looked in past weeks at why we must forgive as well as the question of how to forgive someone who has hurt us.

But sometimes, we struggle most at forgiving ourselves. 

Sometimes, when we look at our deepest regrets, our darkest sins, our biggest mistakes, we sometimes think that we are beyond forgiveness. Why is this? It may be the impact of seeing how someone we love suffered due to our actions. Or we may feel such strong emotions about a sin (anger, guilt, embarrassment) that we cannot stop thinking about it. It may be that our sinful action or word surprised us and showed us a side of ourselves that we can hardly believe was there and cannot stand to endure. 

Ultimately, if we cannot forgive ourselves, we are telling Jesus that his sacrifice was not enough. 

This, of course, is untrue. If we have given our lives to Jesus, then his blood covers our lives. Yes, we will continue to sin, and experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We will be required to confess and repent of many things throughout our Christian walk. But Jesus’ blood covers it. 

So long as we worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and we repent of the sin, there is nothing Jesus’ blood cannot cover. No murder, no lust, no embezzlement, no violent act is beyond the reach of the cross.

So how do we proceed, if we are struggling to forgive ourselves of a horrible sin in our past (or present)? There are five helpful steps here:

  • Confession. We confess the sin, to God and to others. Turning to our pastor, accountability partner, or spouse is a good starting point (James 5:16).
  • Restitution. We do what is possible to make things right. This may be apologizing and asking for forgiveness from someone else. Or, this may be repaying stolen money four times over (see Zacchaeus’ repentance story in Luke 19). 
  • Refocus. We shift our focus from ourselves (our sin, our error) and onto Jesus. This will include reading the Scriptures, meditating on the character of God, and praying in the Spirit. We only rest in Jesus.
  • Life change. We identify how our unforgiveness is impacting our lives, and take the action necessary to resolve this. Perhaps we are avoiding certain people because we feel so guilty or embarrassed about something that we did. Or perhaps we now avoid all romantic relationships because of how we ruined an important one years earlier. We must begin to act in different ways as we deal with the past. 
  • Godly counsel. We reach out to other Christians and seek their wisdom and counsel. This may be the beginning of a new accountability partnership or mentoring relationship. We might schedule a meeting with our pastor or begin counseling. We open up to our friends and family, seeking their support and help as we move toward forgiveness and moving our life closer to Christ. 

Forgiveness is hard. And the Enemy does not want us to experience the peace, joy, and freedom that comes with it. Let us not forget the call of Colossians 3:13 – “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Written by Jessica Hayes
iHope Communications Director