One would argue that we shouldn’t have to walk through the process of forgiving ourselves because it’s not in the Bible. What does it then when people talk about forgiving yourself?
We are forgiven and receive forgiveness for our sins through Jesus. (All of which is true.)
The release of our shame and guilt doesn’t hinge on our ability to forgive ourselves. Our freedom from the strongholds we carry comes through the cross’s power. Forgiving yourself starts with recognizing what He has done for you.
We cannot set ourselves free from any sin habit we have in our lives because Jesus set us free already. We aren’t striving to be set free we are renewing our minds to stay free.
Through scripture, we see two types of forgiveness.
The forgiveness of our sins and the forgiveness of others.
Colossians 3:12-13 shares both with us, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Maybe what we need to work on with ourselves is having compassion for ourselves through the mistakes we make, knowing we live in a fallen world and we sometimes sin. Forgiving yourself is not about erasing anything.
We can’t “forgive” ourselves, but we can show compassion, patience, kindness, and gentleness towards ourselves in the healing process through the choices we make.
Learn more about forgiving yourself in great detail in my Spiritual Growth Framework course.
We can use kind words towards ourselves.
We can learn to be patient when we are learning and don’t make the right decision.
We can be gentle with our pain instead of shoving our pain away somewhere.
If our goal is sanctification and becoming more like Christ, how can we extend compassion towards others and not towards ourselves?
Forgiving yourself even as a Christian
I think there is a whole “gospel” that says we should continue to think of ourselves less, we are nothing in this world and worthless. To make statements like this only tells half-truths, which can lead people into a cycle of depression and anxiety because they feel they don’t belong anywhere, not even in the Kingdom.
They find themselves a wreck emotionally, shoving everything down or hiding what they are going through, their relationships are barely holding together, but they are quoting scripture and reading their Bibles. They know about God in their mind, but their heart is far from Him. Forgiving yourself isn’t about striving to be healed.
For example, Matthew 16:24-26 says, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
The Dictionary of Bible Themes defines self-denial as “the willingness to deny oneself possessions or status, to grow in holiness and commitment to God.” This is true. God didn’t call us to be the center of our world, only thinking about ourselves.
Denying ourselves includes overcoming the persistent fleshly demands of the body, also known as the carnal self (living by our senses), and bringing them into submission to God’s Word so that you don’t give into sin: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24, ESV).
Denying yourself means seeking the good of others before looking out for yourself.
1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
Denying ourselves doesn’t mean we deny our existence and how God created us with feelings. We don’t deny our situations. We don’t act as those what we have gone through doesn’t exist. Denying ourselves means we don’t live in our pain, don’t live in our past choices, and don’t live from our hurt.
We don’t live from the truth of our experience but from the Truth over our experience. We can honor the truth but don’t live from it.
How to forgive yourself
What does this look like practically? When we acknowledge our anger from the hurt someone caused us, and we forgive the one who hurt us. We acknowledge our anger is there, but we refuse to live in that anger despite what our feelings and flesh are telling us.
When someone cuts us off when driving and we don’t tail them to get them back.
When someone says something hurtful to us we don’t retaliate with the same kind of words.
How do we walk through compassion towards ourselves and also not build a wall around our hearts?
(Done building walls around your heart? Ready to learn how to receive and welcome love again? Spiritual Growth Framework is for you!)
Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”
Paul rejoiced that the Corinthians were made sorry in a godly manner; their sorrow led them to repentance. Because of this response, further discipline from Paul was not required. Changing the narrative from forgiving yourself to clothing yourself with kindness and humility can lead us to repentance.
When we build walls, we must recognize that walls do not only keep people out they keep us locked in.
Forgiveness in the Bible
Taking a further look at 2 Corinthians 7:10-11, it tells us that there is a godly type of sorrow and an ungodly type of sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Ungodly sorrow, or the sorrow of this world, kills us.
I love this breakdown from my Bible commentary.
Our culture has rejected all “negative” emotions. However, God gave us the capacity for these negative emotions, and there is a proper use for them.
Ecclesiastes 7:3 says, “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”
We should feel bad about sin. There should be sorrow over our what we do wrong. However, this sorrow should lead to repentance, and then when forgiveness is received, our sorrow should be cast upon the Lord (Isaiah 53:4). Forgiving yourself isn’t something you did or do alone. You heal with the Lord.
The Lord’s statements to His disciples, the night before His crucifixion, caused them sorrow (Matthew 26:21-22 and John 16:6). Peter’s sorrow after his denial of Jesus changed him, and certainly, he never regretted those tears he cried. The sorrow experienced by those who do not turn to God produces only death. They grieve over their situation because they don’t turn to God (that’s repentance). Christians should only have sorrow until they repent.
The word repentance in the Bible literally means “the act of changing one’s mind.” True repentance results in the radical and persistent pursuit of holy living and walking with God in obedience.
Repentance in the Bible involves a complete change of mind, heart, and actions. Renewing our minds and repentance go hand-in-hand. We can’t renew what we aren’t aware of, and we can’t change what we don’t confront.
Therefore, our sorrow can produce death in our life versus holy living. (Which is displaying God’s characteristics to the world.)
It’s the “goodness of God that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)
Those who come to God because of His goodness will see God as the source of their success and continue to serve God in the good and the bad times.
The Gospel uses God’s great love to draw us unto God. (Remember, forgiving yourself isn’t the goal.)
Paul, in Philippians 3:13–14, reminds us to look forward, to look up to heaven, and not on the road behind us: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
There is beauty in honoring our past stories without them becoming our identity, our worth, the lens we view the world through, or our future. Our past may be trying to tell us something right now (according to how our body responds and reacts with fight or flight).
However, we get to continue to press toward the prize: the upward call of God toward healing.
Jesus invites us to sit at the table. We don’t have to bring anything. I don’t want to walk away from the table with anything less than what He died for me to have. We get everything He brings to the table. Forgiving yourself is healing with the Lord and changing the way you view forgiveness.
Praying for you,