Should I Forgive Myself? And If So, How?

Have you ever really blown it?  Like really blown it…

Did you find it difficult to move on from that, even after you’ve confessed and repented before God and with whomever you may have offended?  Does it haunt you at night and follow you throughout the day?

The Shame of Past Guilt

Sometimes, it seems impossible to shake the guilt of the past.  How could you ever overcome that persistent, condemning voice? Maybe you’ve heard people say that you need to forgive yourself, but how do you ever make it actually work long-term?  On the other hand, maybe you don’t find yourself so eager to break away from these shaming echos. Does it, perhaps, feel like it would be wrong to shake off what you’ve done because that would deny the seriousness of it?

If you want to be free from shame, but can’t figure out how to forgive yourself, then I’d like to point you to Someone big enough to bring that lasting change into your heart and life.  And if you find it hard to understand how moving forward without the guilt is truly what honors God, then again, I’d like to ask you to consider a bit about how His grace and forgiveness works in your life.

Take a moment to soak up these beautiful words about Him…

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” – Psalm 103:8-12

Do You Hate Yourself?

For you to hate yourself, punish yourself, or constantly carry around the weight of what you’ve done wrong is to say that you are above God.  Why? Because on the cross Jesus took upon Himself all the evil, and the ugliness, and the punishment of your sin, so now God looks at you and He says, “Forgiven,” and He does not hold anything you have done or will do against you anymore.  If you keep holding those things against yourself after He – the Lord of the universe – has said that debt is canceled, then you are valuing your own words and thoughts above His. You are acting as if you know better than God does.

That is the key to living in lasting freedom from the memories of your sin.  You can’t “forgive yourself,” as in to make a declaration over yourself and your sin that will have some altering impact on your identity or the world at large.  What you need to do is submit to the word that God has already spoken over you in Jesus.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

You Are Acceptable to God

Your words can’t change your identity or you're standing before God.  So, if God has declared you righteous, stop arguing with Him! You can’t win!  You can’t make yourself dirty again when He has cleaned you, and there is absolutely nothing good that comes from trying to do that.  It may feel “holy” to acknowledge the endless weight of your sin, but if you ever let that weight become weightier than Jesus Christ Himself and what He accomplished through His death and resurrection, then you’ve totally missed the most important thing in the universe – and the very source and essence of what has made you acceptable to a holy God!

The author of Hebrews talks about Jesus being this source in detail.  He walks through the way that Jesus came to do the will of God: setting aside the rituals of the law to provide covering for people’s sins and making Himself the all-sufficient final sacrifice to purify God’s people, in which he says, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

He has Defeated Your Shame

You don’t have to overpower the shame that comes to beat you up.  Just hide yourself in One who already defeated it. Look to Jesus and believe that no one else’s words are bigger than His.  Yours aren’t more powerful, your family's isn’t more powerful, even Satan and the demons aren’t more powerful than Him, so who is there that can rightfully accuse you?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you a free from the law of sin and death. . . . What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” – Romans 8:1-2, 31-34

Believe in God's Love and Power

Further, why would it ever be God’s desire for you to live a life that downplays the most glorious display of His love and power on the cross? What honors Him is for you to believe it so much, that you don’t have to hide or negate your sin, but you also don’t let your sin continue to boss you around.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:10-11
This is the life He wants for you, and you can walk in it!

~ Amanda. Her hope is that by sharing her own story and the truths God has shown her, others might not feel so alone on their own journeys and can also find help in these truths.   This passion grew from seeing how God freed her from the struggles that she felt so trapped in and redeemed the brokenness that she once thought could only be hidden at best. 

Do you find yourself resenting or struggling with accepting God's love? Read Cassidy's story of healing and redemption.

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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