How to Forgive Myself
The reason you struggle with forgiving yourself is because self-forgiveness is a myth (a very popular one).
If you doubt that, write a letter to your mortgage company, and carefully explain to them how you’re no longer going to make your payments because you’ve forgiven yourself of your mortgage debt.
Self-forgiveness puts the totality of forgiveness on self. That’s a problem.
Robert D. Jones writes, “The self-forgiveness notion strangely views the one person as the offender, the judge, and the forgiver.”
That’s a lot of work for one human.
Self-forgiveness is nice in theory, but ultimately, ineffective.
People struggle with forgiving themselves for a myriad of reasons.
Even when people try to forgive themselves, they can’t seem to let “it” go. Even if they sing the popular song.
As a result, they carry around shame, regret, and wallow in guilt.
This is because forgiveness is something that is given and must be accepted.
We can’t give ourselves forgiveness in the same way we grant others forgiveness because sin creates a debt, and the creditor, the person we’ve sinned against must grant the forgiveness, not us.
If the person you’ve sinned again will not grant forgiveness, then, you can appeal to almighty God, who is all-powerful. He can override their refusal and grant forgiveness for the sin. It’s like receiving a pardon from the President or Governor.
To take advantage of this part, you must first seek the forgiveness of the person you sinned against and place your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord. For more information on receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, please visit the following link: https://www.southbaychurchli.org/resources/how-to-get-to-know-god-personally.
Let’s take some time to explore the fallacy of self-forgiveness to gain a better understanding of a forgiven life.
We’re using the booklet Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself by Robert D. Jones as our guide.
Is Self-Forgiveness Biblical?
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
– Ephesians 4:32
The first thing that may surprise you is that self-forgiveness is not something discussed in the Bible.
Instead, the Bible focuses solely on the forgiveness we receive and give to others.
According to Jones, “The Bible speaks of vertical forgiveness (God forgiving a person) and horizontal forgiveness (one person forgiving another). Ephesians 4:32, for example, declares that God in Christ forgave us (vertical) and exhorts us to forgive others (horizontal). But the Bible says nothing of internal forgiveness (a person forgiving himself).”
Sadly, even those who read God’s Word can find themselves trapped behind the notion of self-forgiveness.
Since self-forgiveness is not found in the Bible and is ineffective, it is more important to search for the root cause.
When we strive to forgive ourselves, we are mislabeling another issue, such as not trusting God’s forgiveness or not confessing sin to someone else.
What is the Root Issue with Your Forgiveness Issue?
Start by doing away with the concept of self-forgiveness and trying to identify the actual root cause of the feelings you are experiencing.
In Jones’ booklet, he identifies five ways people mislabel an inability to forgive themselves for another cause.
- Unwilling to grasp and receive God’s forgiveness.
One of the reasons people say they can’t forgive themselves is because they actually struggle with believing and accepting God’s forgiveness or we trick ourselves into thinking we don’t need God’s forgiveness.
Jones explains, “Unassured of a solution to our real or perceived failure, we manufacture a need for self-forgiveness to satisfy our lingering guilt or to supplement what we fear is God’s insufficient forgiveness.”
- Unwilling to acknowledge your own sinful nature.
Sometimes when people say they can’t forgive themselves it is actually because they struggle to believe they performed the sinful action.
According to Jones, “Inability to forgive oneself often expresses an underlying problem of self-righteousness and a lack of realistic self-knowledge.”
These individuals struggle to believe they are capable of evil or that the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).
- Venting regrets for failing to achieve desired results.
In this case, the person says, “I can’t forgive myself,” but what he really means is he is upset with the results of his action.
For example, if someone loses his money in a bad investment and says, “I can’t forgive myself,” what he may really be saying is he is disappointed his investments didn’t make him a lot of money.
Jones explains, “The person proudly acts as if he could control the world and guarantee getting what he wants […] He is blind to his underlying urge to control his own happiness.”
- Trying to establish your own standards of righteousness.
Some people say they struggle with forgiving themselves because they are trying to live up to their own perfect standards or other people’s expectations.
Jones writes, “His longing for self-forgiveness arises from his failure to measure up to his own standards of performance, his own image of how good he is or ought to be.”
Essentially, this person tries to play God by creating his own standards of righteousness.
- Made yourself your own judge.
According to Jones, “Such a person has convened the court, prosecuted the case, and rendered a guilty verdict upon himself, and now believes that he must grant the needed pardon! But the Bible declares that God alone is both judge and forgiver, as well as penalty-bearer, for those in Christ!”
What Can Wash Away My Sin?
The only person who can wash away your sins is Jesus Christ.
He alone can stand as the judge, forgiver, and penalty-bearer.
When we try to perform all three roles, we lose sight of the goodness of God’s forgiveness.
God saw how the world was full of people who committed all sorts of sins and who were in desperate need of real forgiveness.
So, He sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins, all of them.
Through Jesus, permanent forgiveness is possible.
You don’t have to wash away your sins; your sins have already been washed away by the cleansing, precious blood of Jesus.
Where Should I Turn When I Struggle with Forgiveness?
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded of God’s vertical forgiveness.
When you catch yourself struggling with forgiveness, ask God to reveal the root cause and deal with it.
Also, memorize Scripture that promises God’s forgiveness and remind you that forgiveness comes from God alone.
Here are some verses to get you started.
- 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 103:11-12
- “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. – Isaiah 1:18
- I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. – Isaiah 43:25
- You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:19
If you recognize that all you are doing to try to forgive yourself is not working and want to learn more about true forgiveness, please reach out.
We’d love to talk with you.
We also have other blogs on forgiveness that you may find helpful.
First, we encourage you to confess your sins to the person you sinned against and to God and accept their forgiveness. If the person you sinned against won’t forgive you, trust that God’s forgiveness is sufficient because Jesus paid your penalty.
Here is a blog on confession.