So much of ourselves are uncovered when we assess the damage of our lives. How do we forgive ourselves after we witness all the mistakes we've made?
Our past deeds can sometimes weigh heavily on us. There is no way to travel back in time to undo things we have done in the past, though many of us wish we could.
Mistakes are inevitable. They are simply an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning. Everyone makes them. The world, however, has duped us into believing that our mistakes sums up who we are, and that entanglement holds many of us captive for the rest of our lives. Sadly, once we buy into the lie, we spend the remainder of our days declaring to the world and ourselves, that the lie is true. Locking us in a maze in search of self forgiveness.
Truthfully, the Bible doesn’t speak in terms of forgiving ourselves.
Once again the great deceiver has tricked us into believing that equality with God is something to be attained. Taunting us, as he did Adam and Eve in the garden: “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And thus we begin this mad dance of trying to do for ourselves what only God can do.
Only one forgives sin, just as only one saves, but we continue to try to forgive ourselves and save ourselves. Yet Christ, our great example, shows us differently in Phil 2: 6, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be had.
So what can we do when guilt and regret about our past actions keep us from moving on with our lives as we should? How can we learn to leave those things behind and move forward? As always, our God, the great provider and protector, gives us a blueprint to follow in freeing ourselves of past guilt and regaining mental health.
The great apostle Paul looked at his past with great regret. “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9). We stand in awe of the great humility of his words, but miss the battle that had to ensue to get him there. Paul wrote these words about 20 years after his persecution of the early Christians, and they indicate that he had by no means forgotten his shameful and destructive actions as a young man, but had risen above them.
Paul had done some horrible things to God and to others and he did them openly and proudly. Now he finds himself among the very people he had set out to destroy. What will they think? How will they feel having me among them? Will they accept me? Can I accept myself as being part of the inner circle? All of these are doubts, worries, and insecurities that Paul no doubt had. Those same insecurities run through our veins well. However, the Bible shows us that Paul left that life behind and went on to lead a much more constructive and productive life.
How? He took Jesus at his word and chose to believe.
He realized that forgiving, whether it involves forgiving others or forgiving himself, involves understanding that God forgives sinners who turn from their sins and turn to Him, and that God then allows and wants them to move forward.
“‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (Hebrews 10:16-17).
The Bible shows us that the path to follow is to 1) repent before God, change the path we’re on and 2) be assured that when God forgives, He removes us from our transgressions.
The second step is where I (and I believe most Christians) found myself stuck - being assured that God had removed my transgressions from me as far as the east is from the west.
There's a story in folklore, of a young kid traveling with his dad. A bee flies into the car and the child begins to scream uncontrollably. Dad reaches out and grabs the bee in his hand, holds it tightly in his fist for a moment, then lets the bee go. The kid again, begins to scream "it's going to get me, it's going to get me!". Dad proceeds to comfort him and tell him, It's ok son, I have taken the stinger in my hand. The only thing the bee can do at this point is try to intimidate you. So it is with our mistakes. Satan uses them like a loudly buzzing bee flying near our ear, as a reminder that he has something on us. Something that can hurt us, but Jesus has already taken the sting. All it can do at this point is intimidate us.
1) Know that God alone forgives -
And he promises to forgive ALL who repent. And he forgives thoroughly - As far as the east is from the west - And he remembers them no more.
2) Choose to believe him
Peter and Judas, after betraying Jesus in the garden, found themselves in the same boat, enemies of the cross. Both had been constantly reminded by Jesus, that he knew them better than they knew themselves, that they would betray him and that no matter what - he loved them anyway. One believed him and moved on from his sin and one did not and was stuck in guilt and shame.
God already knew that we would betray him, in what way the betrayal would come, and to what degree. Nothing we've done is so shocking that God has turned his face away. So our lack of "forgiving ourselves" isn't a God thing, but an 'us' thing. It's time to take God at his word and believe him.
Paul, after persecuting Christians, believed him and moved on, David after sinning with Bathsheba, believed him and moved on. 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide an escape, so that you can stand up under it. Part of the escape provided by God is his forgiveness.
It's up to us to choose to accept the escape.
Whatever we unearth as we venture into our Rebounds, must be faced, for it is those pitfalls and our lack of dealing with them that has grounded us. It's time to take responsibility for who or what we're running away from and see it as part of our necessary journey to freedom.
Basketball legend, Michael Jordan, wrote a powerful little book in the early 90s called, 'I Can't Accept Not Trying,' in which he makes a daring statement that resonated with me, "there is no such thing as failure". Jordan goes on to say, that "every time he 'failed' (made a mistake) at something it was a step closer to success". Looking back Jordan says, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. It is during these struggles and arduous moments that we grow the most. Without a doubt, we wouldn’t know what success is, if we never failed in our life. Failing is what makes success so sweet and fulfilling. Life is truly about falling eight times, but getting up nine.
So maybe instead of trying to find a way to forgive ourselves, we should ask ourselves what did we learn from having gone through it. You'll find that the lesson is so much sweeter than the sting.
It's a matter of perspective.