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Forgiving Ourselves (3)

Why won’t some of us stop punishing ourselves for the wrongs we’ve done? I know the question. Long after I’ve asked God’s forgiveness, I have silently cursed myself for doing things that embarrassed me and hurt others.There was a time, though, that I wouldn’t talk this way. I assumed that forgiving me was God’s prerogative not mine. Then I met someone in addiction recovery who was willing to talk about his own struggle. As we talked, he told me that he didn’t have a hard time believing that God forgave him. But he said he’d had an awful time forgiving himself for some of the things he had done.

Then with a smile he said, “But I have a friend who got on my case for acting like I was greater than God. This friend kept saying, ‘Who do you think you are, God Almighty? God forgives you. But you don’t. What is this you’re telling me? Are you greater than God?'”

The good-natured prodding he took from his friend helped me. Later, I remembered words of the apostle John who wrote in his first New Testament letter: “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20 NIV).

Why is it important to remember that God is greater than our hearts? John reminded us that when the sin we have already confessed continues to torment us, God sees more clearly than we do. He sees everything. He sees the wrong and the regret we have acknowledged. He sees the price He has paid to release us from that sin. He sees the trust we have put in His Son. He sees the good work He has started in our hearts. And He knows that what He has begun He will finish (Philippians 1:6).

God also sees something else. He sees the people around us who are negatively affected as long as we continue to condemn ourselves. He knows we will never be good at loving others as long as we refuse to let the love and forgiveness of God flush the guilt and shame out of our lives.

How can the love of God flow through us to those around us if we are saying, in effect, “I know You have forgiven me, Lord, but I have higher standards and expectations for myself than You do. I can’t walk with You. I can’t join You in Your mission of love, because I haven’t lived up to my own expectations.”

We may think that’s humility. But if so, let’s second guess ourselves. Could it be wounded pride? Could the friend I quoted in my last post be right in saying that one of our problems might be that we have too high of an opinion of ourselves? Could another friend be right that we haven’t thought long enough about how much Christ suffered for us, so that we wouldn’t feel a need to atone for our own sin? What about the other friend who acknowledged that while healthy regret can lead to change, unhealthy grief can keep us stuck in our sin, and even give us an excuse for not moving ahead with God?

If you have the time, I wish you’d let me know what you’re thinking.

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7 Responses to “Forgiving Ourselves (3)”

  1. desteyne says:

    I don’t understand christians who continue to deceive others, especially other christians and then talk about being blessed by God. How do I forgive a christian who continues to do me wrong and talk about God and can’t see God?

  2. indrei says:

    Dear Mart, like you, I have some remarkable friends… One of them one day reminded me not only that my lack of self-forgiveness was a sign that I was placing myself above God (your point), but also that my lack of self-forgiveness and the pain it generates could be a doorway to a closer walk with God – provided I simply surrendered trying to do things my way and actually let Him reign in my life (Sigh… at last!). When I finally made that surrender, it changed my life. It also gave me a tool return to Him every time I wander (which is daily).

  3. muzicbox9 says:

    Hello Desteyne,

    I understand your confusion and irritation at this. As a Christian, this is something that I have often struggled with. It has caused me to give up on going to church a few times in my life because I just felt like there was so much hypocrisy.

    Then when I got a bit older, and started to take more responsibility for my own personal role as a Christian and my devotion to Christ, I started to realize that there are a lot of ‘Christians’ out there who feel like they have to live up to a certain stereotype or create a certain persona for themselves.

    E.g., Christian= educated, perfect, upstanding citizen who never makes a wrong move or hurt others.

    The plain truth is, however, that Christians, like everyone else, are imperfect individuals who sometimes get it right and sometimes get it wrong. The problems start when you get Christians who are too prideful too admit their faults.

    I don’t think it’s the fact that they are Christians that make them deceptive – it’s the fact that they are human and feel that they have to make others believe that they are a ‘certain way’= perfect (for lack of a better word).

    But we know that the only perfect One is Christ and while it is our charge to try and be Christ like as Christians … none of us will ever get there 100%. That’s the whole purpose for Christ dying for our trangressions … because He loved us so much, saw the trouble we got ourselves into through our own free will, and He knew that this was the only way to save us – by taking our sin upon His sinless shoulders.

    I, for one, am far from perfect … and I don’t decieve anyone about this. In fact, I now feel sorry for Christians who decieve themselves and others about thier past and present conduct. These people used to intimidate me because I felt they were better than me .. because they were so ‘together’.

    Now, however, I realize that I have nothing to be ashamed of in confessing my faults and imperfections as a Christian – because I am definitely not alone.

    The goal as a follower of Christ is to admit your faults, when they occur, ask for forgiveness and strive with the help of God to not revisit old sins. God seeks the heart and knows when someone is being genuine.

    If your Christian friend has hurt you, you can forgive him/her because Christ offers us all forgiveness and all by mercy.

    The best thing you could do for your friend is point out the inconsistencies in his/her character to him/her so that he/she can get real about how they are living their lives. They might thank you for it – they might be upset at you … who knows? But at least it will be a starting point for them to re-evaluate their faith and what it is based on; a facade or true understanding and belief?

    Hope this helps.

    God Bless – Stacie

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    desteyne, I think Stacie has given you a lot of wise advice. The only difference is that if you go back and read my posts on forgiveness, you’ll see why I don’t think the first issue is about forgiving those who won’t admit their wrong, but rather whether we will love and pray for “our enemy”.

  5. wate says:

    wate says
    all my life i claim to be a fallower of jesus but my life style was just the opposite the evil i did was unbeleavable their came apoint were the holy spirt in me thur-up the guilt in me was so over powering i try to
    kill myself and over the next 3 years ikept telling everyone that would listen all the evil i had forgiveing your self is very nessary for mental health

  6. Ivan Mahlonovich says:

    I’ve been thinking about forgiveness lately and I came to think about it in a roundabout way. For many years, I went backpacking and trout fishing with my brothers every summer in Idaho. The three of us would spend a week out in the wilderness doing “guy stuff” with no girls allowed. Of course, after a week in the woods, I doubt any girls would want to be near us. Each year I would diet and exercise to get ready for “The Idaho Trip”. One year I was remiss in my training and I wasn’t ready for the physical effort required to backpack at high altitude. When hiking a particularly steep trail, I found I just couldn’t go on and I urged my brothers to continue to Goat Lake, which was our destination, without me. One reason I couldn’t go on was my photo backpack, which was crammed with cameras, lenses and my tripod. My brothers left me resting beside the trail and, as often happens when I am still, I had a conversation with God. The conversation had to do with putting down my burdens, both physical and spiritual. I soon took off my backpack and almost ran up the trail carrying just one camera. I got some beautiful shots. From this experience, I wrote a brief poem titled “Lightened Load”. It says, “I haven’t the strength of my youth and I can no longer bear the burden of grudges and regrets.” Upon further reflection, I decided that grudges and regrets are related. For grudges are the result of me not forgiving someone and regrets are the result of me not forgiving myself. I believe it is not the grudges and the regrets that create the burden. It is the unforgiveness that weighs so heavily and impedes our progress. In His Love, Ivan

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