What if the Person I'm Struggling To Forgive Is Me?
“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.”
Do you ever feel like the hardest person to forgive is actually yourself?
I understand this. Deeply. I so wish we were sitting together having a conversation right now instead of you just reading these words on a screen. But while you're reading, I’d love to share my story with you …
When I was in my early 20s, I made a decision that, with everything in me, I wished I could go back and change. I had an abortion. Knowing nothing could be done to reverse that decision filled me with the deepest kind of despair. Afterward, every time I heard others talking harshly about abortion, I was filled with shame. It felt like a life sentence I would never be healed from.
I would say, “I can’t forgive myself.” What I meant was, “I don’t think forgiveness is possible for a person like me. And I don’t think I’ll ever be free from the shame of what I’ve done.”
Maybe this is where you are right now — struggling to overcome feelings of shame and regret from choices you wish you could go back and change.
That’s why it feels so important to share with you what I’ve learned. When I researched the concept of forgiving ourselves, I was a little shocked to discover it’s not in the Bible. I started to realize that just like we can’t accomplish salvation apart from God, we can’t bestow forgiveness upon ourselves. Forgiveness starts with God.
Since we are not the judge, we can’t pardon ourselves. So when we feel like we are struggling with forgiveness for ourselves, what’s really happening is a struggle to fully receive the forgiveness of God.
Jesus gave His very life to provide forgiveness for our sins, which isn’t just a part of the Christian faith … Forgiveness is the very cornerstone of the Christian faith. Forgiveness for our sins isn’t just a hope we have; it is the greatest reality for all who choose to receive salvation through accepting Jesus as the Lord of their lives.
Often what keeps us from walking as forgiven people is the struggle with feelings of shame and regret. These are very heavy burdens to bear. In my own life, I’ve carried many burdens. But the weight of shame is by far the heaviest I’ve ever known.
It’s a burden God doesn’t want any of us to carry. And I’m so thankful for these three things that eventually helped me fully receive His forgiveness and get out from underneath shame’s condemning weight:
1. I needed to have a marked moment of confessing, repenting and asking God for forgiveness.
Psalm 32:5 reads, “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.” I couldn’t do this by myself — because I wanted someone, a witness, who could forever remind me I had asked for God’s forgiveness and was therefore forgiven. I also verbalized out loud that I received God’s forgiveness, so I could have a definite memory of acknowledging His gift of mercy.
2. I had to remember that shame and accusation come from the enemy.
Satan will do everything possible to try and keep us from sharing a testimony of the forgiveness and redemption of Jesus. And the enemy loves to hold people hostage to shame by keeping what they did hidden in the darkness. I was terrified to tell people what I’d done. But I did tell God I would share my story if ever I met a young girl in danger of making the same uninformed decision as I did. When I eventually let God use my painful choice for good, I started to see glimpses of redemption. Seeing God take what the enemy meant for such evil and use it for good didn’t take away my grief, but it did start to heal my shame.
3. I let my experience make my heart tender and compassionate.
Knowing what it feels like to make a mistake gives us more compassion when others make mistakes. This isn’t excusing unwise behavior in the name of compassion. But at the same time, having an attitude of compassion helps us not to shame others. I don’t ever want another human to carry the awful weight of shame, and I probably would not be as sensitive to others as I am now if I hadn’t ever carried that weight myself.
Shame isn’t from God, and He doesn't condemn those who repent of sin. Confess what you’ve done. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Receive His forgiveness. And then walk in His freedom. You can live the greatest testimony of truth … the testimony of redemption.
Father God, I’m so thankful forgiveness isn’t something I have to earn or achieve. It’s a gift of grace I get to receive. Thank You that Jesus’ blood was enough to pay for my sin. Help me receive all You are offering me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.