Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Art of Self-Forgiveness

The Art of Self-Forgiveness

But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:15).

You're in the grocery store picking up a few things when someone accidentally bumps into you. They give a quick apology, and you shuffle on without giving it a second thought.

It's Friday evening and your husband walks in the door from long day, that just wrapped up a very long week, and he's, shall we say, a little snappy with you. But, he eventually apologizes and of course you forgive him. Life is beautiful in your household once again, and the Brady Bunch is left envious.

However, what happens if we turn the stakes up a little? What if you find out that the person you've considered to be one of your best friends had actually sold you out? I mean, how could they, right?! Friendship betrayal is a serious a kind of pain, but it happened between Jesus and Judas, didn’t it? Even then, had Judas repented, forgiveness would have been given. Don’t believe me? Tell me the difference between Judas and Peter.

But what if we made it even more personal? Maybe a little closer to home? What about that one person who needs forgiving, but the idea of doing so makes us all just a little uncomfortable? We know we can forgive others, but...

What about you forgiving you?

In the movie "Get Low", the character Felix Bush is a hermit who secludes himself in a self-made prison in the hills of Tennessee for something he decides is so horrible that he cannot come to forgive himself. Instead, he couldn't see the simple answer to God's forgiveness because he'd let his fallible, human emotions keep him from seeing it. Instead, he believed repentance had to come at a much steeper price.

I tell you this to ask you a question: Why is it so much easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves? We can forgive the person in the grocery store. We can forgive the grumpy spouse. We can even eventually forgive the backstabbing friend.

But why can't we give forgiveness to ourselves?

First, we must recognize that it is so much harder to forgive ourselves because we feel both the guilt and the hurt, whereas when someone else hurts us, all we feel is the hurt. This means we are struggling to overcome two negative emotions at once rather than just the one.

Secondly, sometimes, like Felix Bush, we don't feel like we're worthy of forgiveness. However tempting it is to hold to this belief, we must-and I emphasis must- get rid of this notion if we are to survive both emotionally, and spiritually. After all, if God, who is far more holy and righteous than we are, can forgive us then why can't we forgive ourselves? Are we to hold ourselves to a higher standard of righteousness than He who created the very concept of righteousness? I don't know any rational person who would admit to this with their mouth, but their actions may say otherwise. And which one speaks louder, actions or words?

Third, we must base our faith in the cleansing power of Christ's blood. To believe that self-forgiveness is an impossibility in any circumstance is a dangerous belief, and is as corrosive as acid. It eats away at our trust and faith in God until one day there is nothing left to believe in. If not for the redemptive power of Christ's forgiveness, then we have no relationship with the Father at all. After all, if we say that we cannot be forgiven of a specific sin then we diminish the blood of Christ, which is always able to make us clean again. We are commanded to forgive men of their trespasses, and nowhere in that Matthew 6:15 do I read an exception to the rule saying that you don't have to forgive yourself.

After all, isn't forgiveness forgiveness, regardless of the receiver? It matters from whom--but not to whom—including yourself. It ultimately comes down to your relationship with the Father, and a trust in His perfect plan. Do you forget the incident that you did that brought the guilt and hurt? Not even in a perfect world. You remember the lesson you learned during your repentance, but do you dwell on it and continue to beat yourself up daily? Satan would love for you to conform to the world's way of handling failures by dwelling on the issue for the rest of your life. But we are called not to be conformed, but rather to be transformed (Romans 12:2).

And a transformation, in this case, means forgiveness. 

The Art of Self-Forgiveness

The Art of Self-Forgiveness But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:...