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How to Forgive Yourself
Forgiveness is hard work. It is especially hard to forgive when you are still living with the effects of an offense. Yet, there can be an even worse place to be. When you are the offender, you have to live with something irreversible you did to someone else. What if you feel blocked from experiencing true forgiveness for what you have done? These four steps will help you forgive yourself.
1 – Identify What was Lost
It is important to look at what has happened. This is the same as the first step in forgiving others. Identify how reality is different – what could have been? Identify what is lost as a result of your actions. Accept responsibility for what you did. Initially this may be hard to do and you may actually feel worse. But it is a necessary step because there is no going back to the past to undo something, there is only moving forward.
2 – Express Remorse and Repent
It is appropriate to feel sorrow or remorse for a short period of time. This is an essential part of handling a loss. Even if the primary loss was someone else’s, you have lost something too. Until you can forgive yourself, you will lack some degree of security. Spend some time being aware of your feelings. Express feeling sorry for what you have done. This could be journaling, talking, or perhaps even yelling or some other method to expend your energy (all of this done without hurting anyone). Accept what was lost as lost. Spent an appropriate amount of time grieving. This might be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months.
3 – Trust in God’s Goodness
Surrender your fate into God’s hands. Ask God to forgive you. Trust in God’s grace and mercy for both the offended and for you. Trust that God is able to make up for your mistake in a way that only God knows is best. Pray for the person you offended. Pray that God will bring them to a better place than before you hurt them. Even if this is not God’s will, this is a good heart attitude. The offended will not be able to return to their pre-offense state, but God will make it right. God may bless the offended person sooner, or the offended person may continue to suffer for some time. Either way pray that the offended can sense God’s presence and find peace and acceptance of their new reality. If God does not appear to make up for your mistake, trust that God is in control and knows something you do not.
4 – Lighten Your Load
Be willing to be a part of God making it right. Make restitution if possible (but only if the offended wants this). Having done what you can do to make restitution, leave the rest to God. Drop the weight. Cut the strings. Leave the luggage. Stop punishing yourself. Walk away from it. Allow yourself to pursue enjoying your life again. Get on with your life. Rejoice that you are forgiven. Having learned from your mistake, be a blessing to others. Be ready to forgive others in the same way you have received God’s forgiveness. If you continue to struggle to forgive yourself, realize you have not fully received God’s forgiveness. Return to the gospel message and receive complete forgiveness. Start life anew with a blank canvas.
- Do you struggle to forgive yourself in any way?
- What is standing in the way of you completely receiving God’s forgiveness?
- Are you still too hard on yourself? What would you say to a friend who is struggling with self-forgiveness?
“But you are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.”
“If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
From the Song “What Sin?”
The heaviest thing you’ll carry
Is a load of guilt and shame.
You were never meant to bear them
So let them go in Jesus name.
Our God is slow to anger
Quick to forgive our sin
So let Him put them under the blood
Don’t bring them up again.
Cause He’ll just say,
What sin, what sin?
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.