"Accepted in the beloved...we have...forgiveness." Ephesians 1:6-7
You're a product of your past, but you don't have to be a prisoner of it! When you refuse to forgive yourself, you're making a decision to be miserable for the rest of your life. And here are some other consequences you may not have considered:
(1) It's not just about you! Misery loves company. When you keep beating yourself up, your loved ones get beaten up too. It's inevitable, because when you wallow in guilt you're more withdrawn and critical, and less open and affectionate. That means your spouse, children, parents, co-workers, friends (even your dog!), suffers along with you.
(2) Your mind affects your body! Doctors say that unforgiveness generates chemicals that directly affect your vital organs. They increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, disrupt your digestion, tense your muscles, dump cholesterol into your bloodstream and reduce your ability to think clearly. Each time you revisit your past, those bad feelings deliver another zap of corrosive chemicals. Science is only now confirming what God has always known, namely, that those who don't forgive themselves and others, are more prone to heart attacks, depression, hypertension and other serious illnesses.
(3) You get stuck in the past! God said: "To everything there is a season" (Ecc 3:1). Once you've repented and been forgiven, the season for regret is over. You need to start looking ahead, otherwise you'll get permanently mired in a bog of your own making. The Bible says: "Accepted in the beloved. . .we have. . .forgiveness." So forgive yourself, and anybody else you need to, and get on with your life.
"When I kept it all inside...the pressure never let up." Psalm 32:3 TM
It's particularly hard to forgive yourself: (a) For a marriage or career failure. (b) When your actions have hurt others. (c) When your lifestyle has hurt you. (d) When you haven't done what you know you should have. So, here are some suggestions:
(1) Confess what you've done! Thinking you're 'unique' makes it harder for you to give yourself a break. Plus, confession stops you from slipping into denial. Once you've obtained God's forgiveness, get support from a trusted friend. David said: "When I kept it all inside. . .the pressure never let up. . .I said: "I'll make a clean breast of my failures. . .suddenly the pressure was gone, my guilt dissolved" (Ps 32:3-5 TM).
(2) Hit the stop button! Often it's the guilt and stress associated with remembering your actions that make you feel bad, not the offence itself. Your habitual reaction is the real problem. Continually revisiting your failures doesn't accomplish anything, it only offends a forgiving God. So, when you catch yourself doing it, hit the stop button and change the channel! Focus on the fact that God's forgiven you, then put it behind you.
(3) Replace your guilt with gratitude! That's not hard to do, just reflect on God's goodness. Walk into any supermarket and thank Him for the abundance of good food you enjoy. Or visit a hospital or rehab and be grateful for your health. When you look for them, you'll find lots of things to thank God for today.
"Let's...look at the way we're living and reorder our lives." Lamentations 3:40 TM
Refusing to forgive yourself is like trying to drive your car with the brakes on; it prevents all forward momentum. Here are some contributing factors:
(1) Unrealistic expectations! We each have a set of subconscious rules about how we should behave. Many come from childhood and no longer work. For example, how realistic is it to think you can work 12-hour days, attend all school functions, maintain a perfect house, get enough rest, and still have time for God and your family? Listen: "Let's. . .look at the way we're living and reorder our lives."
(2) Feeling bad instead of doing good! Listen: "If you fail the test, do something about it" (2 Co 13:5 TM). If you feel like you failed as a parent, work to become a terrific grandparent, or reach out to some needy child or teenager. There are lots of opportunities around you. Remember: "Those who help others are helped" (Pr 11:25 TM). The roots of happiness grow in the soil of service, so get busy!
(3) Getting things out of perspective! Instead of telling yourself what a terrible person you are, remind yourself of the good things you've done. If you can't think of any, begin making some memories. If Ebenezer Scrooge could do it, you can too.
Above all, keep these words in mind: "When. . .sin versus grace, grace wins hands down," (Ro 5:20 TM). That means regardless of how badly you've messed up, God stands ready to give you a fresh start.
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