It’s All About Me: Self Forgiveness Or God’s Forgiveness, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

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16Dec  I am sure at some point in your life, someone has told you that you need to “forgive yourself.”  The idea of practicing self-forgiveness is so popular that a quick Google search of the phrase yielded 95,700,000 results!

It sounds good – in theory.  Who hasn’t done something or made some mistake they wanted to forget or be forgiven for? In addition. the shame and guilt we carry from our bad decisions or behavior seems to follow us wherever we go, sometimes for years.

So . . .

Shouldn’t we just find

A way to forgive ourselves?

There is a big difference between being forgiven by someone, accepting forgiveness, and forgiving yourself.

For example, if your behavior has hurt someone else, then you hope they will forgive you.  If they choose to forgive you, then you must choose to accept their forgiveness. However, how many of us have been forgiven but still struggled to forgive ourselves?

This is because

Self-forgiveness

Is a myth.

The truth is . . .

Forgiveness is something

That is given and

Something we must

Choose to accept.

It is not simply

Something we can grant

Ourselves for ourselves

Any more than

A debtor can forgive

His own debt.

In fact, try calling your mortgage company.  Tell them how you have forgiven yourself of their mortgage and listen carefully to what their response it.

If someone on death row proclaims to the judge that he has forgiven himself of the crime he committed, what would the judge do?  Release him?  Of course not.  His crime has not been forgiven, and the penalty for his crime must be paid.

Fortunately . . .

There is an answer.

Those who accept

What Jesus Christ did

For them

On the cross

Can receive the ultimate

Pardon and forgiveness

For their sins

Because the penalty

Was paid.

Because shame and guilt weigh so heavily on us, it makes sense that we look for ways to make ourselves feel better.  However . . .

Attempts at self-forgiveness

Without Christ

Only lead to

Repeated attempts

To bury our

Guilt and shame.

Look at some of the many ways people try to practice self-forgiveness.  Have you tried any of these ways to forgive yourself?

  • Compare Your Decisions To Everyone Else’s.

Do you compare your mistakes to everyone else’s to make yourself feel better?  When you discover a “bigger” sin, does that make you feel “more forgiven”?  Of course not, because the regret remains.  It does not address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Have A “Nobody’s Perfect” Attitude.

Some people try to cover their shame by embracing this mindset.  This person says, “So what? I messed up. Everyone does.”  Do you think this will make the shame and guilt go away?  No.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Make Excuses For Your Behavior.

Many of us have excused our poor decisions or bad behaviors – and many of these excuses are true.  “I was young.” “I wasn’t thinking.”  When you think through your excuses, do you feel better?  Do you feel forgiven? It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Acknowledge It But Only As A Learning Experience.

Psychology Today says, “Retain what you learned from the event but release everything else.”  A popular theory says by accepting our mistakes as learning experiences, we can forgive ourselves.  While we can learn from our mistakes, it does not mean we are no longer burdened by them.  It does not mean that our past behaviors no longer hold pain for others. It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Focus On Being Less Self-critical.

Psychologists often encourage people to be less self-critical as a way to practice self-forgiveness.  While we are children of God and should not live in a perpetual autopsy, constantly being critical of ourselves, it will not make us forget when we’ve done something wrong.  When you look in the mirror and practice positive self-talk, do you forget what you did that caused such pain? Of course not. It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Use Positive Emotion Refocusing Techniques.

Another self-forgiveness method, according to Prevention, says, “Simply close your eyes, draw in a long breath that gently pushes out your belly, then slowly exhale as you relax your belly.  Draw a second breath, and exhale.  On the third deep breath, create a mental image of someone you love or of a beautiful place in nature that fills you with awe.”  But, let’s be serious.  This might make us feel better for awhile but that is about all it will do.  We need more that to feel better … we need actual forgiveness of our sins.  This method does not bring self-forgiveness in our life.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Attempt Mindfulness.

Mindfulness meditation is a popular practice where individuals attempt to be mindful of experiences occurring at the present moment.  Mindfulness can be a helpful tool to focus on the moment instead of dwelling on the past, but the practice does not help you forgive yourself because the past remains.  It doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

  • Attempt Mindfulness.

Others will spend significant time or money trying to do better in hopes it will help them forgive themselves.  Ask someone who tried this method if it worked or if they just continued to do more and more.  I have a feeling I know what they’ll say. It also doesn’t address the question, “What can wash away my sin?”

All the above practices are merely coping mechanisms to help us bury the things we have done and are most ashamed of, but they actually do nothing to deal with the root cause of our guilt and shame. The best they can do is to cover feelings up for a short time.

All of these approaches will fail because you are trying to do the impossible.  The Good News is that there is another way.

You don’t have to forgive yourself;

Yourself has already been forgiven.

Here’s what you need to understand.  Modern coping mechanisms or psychological methods will only help you redirect your thoughts of guilt for a brief moment of time.  The feeling may temporarily fade, but the past always creeps back in.

Fortunately, there is a solution.  God saw how the world was full of people who committed all sorts of sins and were in desperate need of real forgiveness.

So, He sent Jesus to die on the cross for your sins.  So, through Jesus, permanent forgiveness is possible.

Roy Lessin sums it up really well,

“If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.

If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.

If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.

If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.

But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Savior.”

A popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

People all over the world

Are looking for a way

To feel whole and forgiven.

People want to feel

At peace with themselves.

But . . .

The only way to true forgiveness

Is to believe Jesus,

The Lamb of God,

Was sacrificed

To take away our sins.

All the earthly means

Of striving for self-forgiveness

Will never take the place

Of what Jesus did

On the cross

(John 1:29).

So, what now? We all need forgiveness. It is why God sent His Son!  If you recognize that all you are doing to try to forgive yourself is not getting you anywhere and want to learn more about true forgiveness, I encourage you to confess your sins to the Lord and accept His forgiveness.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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