For many of us, our biggest forgiveness issue may be forgiving ourselves.
From blowing your budget, stealing, lying or cheating on a spouse or perhaps you were in a war where people died because of you.
Whatever it was the awfulness of it sinks you with guilt and shame. God may forgive you, but can you forgive yourself?
According to Dr. Luskin, Director of Stanford University’s Forgiveness Project, the biggest obstacle to self-forgiveness is the tendency we have to wallow in our guilt. He says:
“It’s not just that we feel bad because we know we’ve done wrong, Everybody does that. But some of us actually draw those bad feelings around ourselves like a blanket, cover our heads, and refuse to stop the wailing. He states, that it is a crazy form of penance. We curl up in a ball and say, Hey, Look how bad I feel! See how I’m suffering! I’m pitiful! I’m pathetic! I can’t be punished any more than this; it wouldn’t be fair!”
Instead of taking responsibility for what we’ve done by trying to repair the damage or make things right, many of us unconsciously punish ourselves by feeling miserable for the rest of our lives.
The decision to keep beating ourselves up has tragic consequences. We end up pulling our loved one’s into our misery because “misery loves company.” We not only beat ourselves up but those who try to help us get beat up as well. So, it’s not just about you!
When we wallow in guilt, we are more withdrawn, critical, and less open than we would normally be. So whoever is around – your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, even your dog – is going to suffer right along with you.
But not forgiving ourselves, also affects our health.
“The guilty feelings we nurture generate chemicals that are headed straight for your vital organs,” Luskin continues. “They increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, disrupt your digestion, tense your muscles, and reduce your ability to think straight. Every time you remember what you did and wince, those bad feelings give you a fresh hit of corrosive chemicals.”
Studies on forgiveness have led scientists to suspect that those who have difficulty forgiving are more likely to experience heart attacks., high blood pressure, depression, and other ills.
The Bible talks about healing “broken” hearts and this is not referring to physical brokenness but rather emotional:
He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:2-3 NASV)
God wants to heal our hearts. He has completely forgiven us for all that we have done through Christ. And when we condemn ourselves, the Apostle John suggests that it may be tied to our lack of confidence that God has forgiven us:
20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; (1 John 3:20-21 NASV)
So we must choose to embrace God’s complete forgiveness. Each time those thoughts surface in our minds from our past, we need to immediately and purposefully counter it with the truth of scripture:
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASV)