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WHY IS SELF-FORGIVENESS SO DIFFICULT?

30 Nov

By Terry Loving

forgive yourself

“You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

With the New Year approaching rapidly, many people are making lists as to what resolutions need to be addressed for the betterment of a new lifestyle. Some people will succeed in completing their list of weight loss goals, quit smoking, new employment or leaving undesirable relationships and situations. On the other hand, many people will fail to accomplish what their minds conceived as needed changes in their lives. Another year goes by.

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One important life change that I have always struggled with is forgiving myself.  I have been able to – with time – forgive the trespasses of others as I have asked God to forgive mine. You never forget the things that you have forgiven, but with God’s help and the right understanding – one can forgive others and move on. I have learned that forgiving others is more about me than them. Meaning, I will be right with God in forgiving, and my overall mental and physical health will improve as I let go of hurts. Heartburn, headaches, bad moods and sour dispositions will fade away when we forgive. When we remove the stumbling blocks, we begin to find our way again, and the future becomes brighter.

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Most Christians understand that un-forgiveness is serious business with God:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

“But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

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Plain and simple isn’t it? We must forgive to receive forgiveness from our heavenly Father. Simply stated, but difficult for many – Christians included. Too many people cannot let go of the past and remain stuck in the yesterdays of their minds. They are not reliving the hurts in reality; however, they hit the replay button over and over again never allowing the pain to heal. I am speaking from experience.

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When we forgive others we often conclude: “He was upset.” “She didn’t mean what she said.” “They are just ignorant.” “He made a mistake.” “She didn’t know any better.”

On the other hand, we mercilessly criticize ourselves when the same conclusions apply to our personal mistakes and trespasses.  We can easily emphasize with the human failings of other people, and yet we hold ourselves to such high standards that we punish ourselves continually for the things that in many cases we have been forgiven for.

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Granted, self-forgiveness may be more difficult when we come to the realization that we caused pain on purpose. In the case of domestic violence and abuse, self-forgiveness may never be realized especially if a life was taken or destroyed because of selfish ambitions. If a relationship was lost, and attempts to recover it were futile, the struggle to forgive oneself will likely continue for a long time. But there is hope for peace of mind.

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Countless abused persons have a difficult time forgiving themselves for the abuse they endured. Faulty reasoning causes many to conclude that they were to blame for what happened to them. Many will make statements such as: “I am intelligent, why didn’t I see this coming?” “How could I allow this to happen to me?” “What did I do wrong?” “How could I get mixed up with him?” “How could I let her charm fool me?” If we view our mistakes as sin self-commendation increases, even though we ask God’s forgiveness, and know that He is faithful and just to forgive.

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Psalm 32:5 says, “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

You “acknowledged” your sin, made no excuses or tried to hide it, and “confessed” to the LORD.” When we do this in Christ, the “guilt” of our sins is forgiven.

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1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Matthew 12:31 – “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy [against] the [Holy] Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (KJV)

Why do we as Christians continue to condemn ourselves when we have been forgiven by God Almighty Himself? God shows us mercy, why can we not give ourselves the opportunity to fully experience His mercy along with self-mercy?

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No human being is exempt from hurting others, making mistakes, exercising poor judgment, or living with regrets. But we must learn self-forgiveness in order to become all that God intended for our lives to become. We must remove the obstacles of the past. If we can learn from the memories of our mistakes, great! If we confessed our faults to God and know that we have been forgiven; if we asked forgiveness of those who we have hurt – accepted or not, then we are convicting an innocent person over and over again.

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One Writer states: “Yet, we can and often do refuse the choice to forgive ourselves because we are experiencing tremendous guilt and believe that we deserve more punishment. Failing to forgive ourselves is one way to keep the punishment in effect. It is a way for us to martyr ourselves over and over again. The foolishness of this practice should be self evident. What can our self inflicted punishment do to help our victim, or for that matter, ourselves? What good can come of it?”

“It’s common to hold on to guilt and shame when we’ve hurt someone, but those feelings do not come from God. They come from our enemy, Satan. Guilt and shame prolong pain and suffering while providing nothing of value to anyone. They leave us looking back, and while we’re busy focusing on the past, it’s very difficult to move forward with Christ.”

“Instead of guilt, God requires repentance. These two words mean very different things. Repentance is an acknowledgment of the wrong we have done followed by a commitment to change our ways, but guilt carries no such commitment. Guilt causes us to live in the shadow of our past disgrace, while repentance looks forward in anticipation of God’s grace.”

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We must also understand:

The Conflict of Two Natures

“14For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

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“21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

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“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Lewis B. Smedes

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“7:18-22 The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have the more quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. The believer sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellence of the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows in grace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, he does not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remaining corruption, he often does evil, though against the fixed determination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved the apostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, was meant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested, so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could not do what the flesh prompted him to do. How different this case from that of those who make themselves easy with regard to the inward motions of the flesh prompting them to evil; who, against the light and warning of conscience, go on, even in outward practice, to do evil, and thus, with forethought, go on in the road to perdition! For as the believer is under grace, and his will is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in the law of God, and in the holiness which it demands, according to his inward man; that new man in him, which after God is created in true holiness.”    Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

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“If you are carrying strong feelings about something that happened in your past, they may hinder your ability to live in the present.” Les Brown

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In light of what has been written thus far, the question that begs an answer is, “How Do I Forgive Myself?” First, advice from the Apostle Paul:

  “7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

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     “ 12Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”

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“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”  New American Standard Bible

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“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”  Hebrews 3:1

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“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

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16Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” http://biblehub.com/nasb/2_corinthians/5.htm

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“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”
Mark Twain

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2 Peter 1:9 – “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”

Romans 6:14 – “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

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http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive-Yourself

Learning To Forgive Yourself

How to Forgive Yourself

10 Steps to Forgiving Yourself

How Do You Forgive Yourself?

The Secret to Forgiving Yourself

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http://www.spiritual-side-of-domestic-violence.org

No portion of this web site may be copied, edited, or used in any form without prior permission.

© Spiritual Side of Domestic Violence Org. – 2013

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1 Comment

Posted by on November 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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One response to “WHY IS SELF-FORGIVENESS SO DIFFICULT?

  1. ssofdv

    December 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    At the request of the commenter, I am posting her response to this article without sharing her identity.

    Hopefully, her powerful statement will help others who are struggling with self-forgiveness. You are not alone. And you are forgiven, please accept the precious Grace of God to heal your wounds.

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    Thank you and bless you abundantly.

    I have been receiving your mails for almost a year and have never had the courage to respond.
    Being out of an abusive marriage for 4 years does not make it any less significant in my life, I still feel an invisible hold that I can not shake off or leave behind. To make it clear I do not dwell on the past and God has been so gracious in relieving me of many painful memories helping me cope with the excruciating truth that my husband was systematically deliberate in his every move to cause me harm and suffering.

    It was so very difficult to hear out of Gods perfect timing {in my naivety} that my husbands behaviour went far beyond an anger problem but touched more on a deep hatred for me that was out to destroy me. This was a hard and bitter truth since I considered him a Christian doing the Lords work and thought it would only be a matter of time until the ‘day of dawning’ came. That day never arrived..

    Forgiving myself is not easy because in all honesty I knew there were things that did not ring right but rang more like an alarm in my gut. I just did not realise what was {in his desperation to marry me quickly} waiting to have freedom and be unleashed. Two days after we married I saw in him a darkness that was wild with evil intent with no regard to any Christian values that he had confessed to strongly uphold prior to the marriage.

    I deeply regret my choice of marrying as I felt my affections were diverted from Jesus and also my prayers became selfish.

    It is a long road back, picking up along the way where I feel I dropped my Lord whither knowingly or unknowingly, only in hindsight I can see.

     

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