On Forgiving Oneself…

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. -Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:3,4

Forgiveness is not something one offers to herself. By nature, forgiveness is a gift you give to another person. To forgive oneself is the one thing a person cannot do. Why? Because sin itself is an offense against another: God or one’s neighbor. It is only indirectly against the self.

Forgiveness must then be received.

Perhaps this is why one never reads in the Bible an admonition for self-forgiveness.

The questions that must be asked, when I choose to bathe in my own guilt are these: by what right do I have to refuse the gift God gives? Am I more just than God? Am I a better arbiter of good and evil than is God?

Isn’t this the nature of the first sin: to wish to be the one who determines what is good and what is evil–to be equal with God?  Is the refusal to accept forgiveness then an act of pride?

Lord, help me to give up the whole idea of forgiving myself. The guilt I feel is from the evil one. You are the one who forgives.  Give me the humility to accept your forgiveness and take me down from my throne as the arbiter of who receives or does not receive forgiveness! Forgive me for taking the role of judge and executioner. 

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About Darryl Willis

Darryl has been working for non-profits for over 36 years. His current work takes him to Ukraine several times a year. He has fallen in love with the country and the people. Darryl writes poetry and his work has appeared in several online and print journals.
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5 Responses to On Forgiving Oneself…

  1. Paul Smith says:

    Really, really, good stuff, Darryl. Thank you.

  2. Paul McMullen says:

    One question that comes to mind: is having grace with yourself (perhaps more of an attitude than a particular action) the same as wanting to forgive yourself? If I don’t live up to my expectations or if I struggle with a particular sin – let’s say lust or road rage or snapping at my wife – is there a sense in which to accept God’s grace I must have grace with myself? Is this an aspect of the pride you mention? Just wondering. 🙂

    • Good question and well put. Just from my perspective I think we need to learn to trust God’s judgement and trust his grace. Is it that I need to give myself grace or merely accept the grace he gives? If I still hold myself guilty have I truly accepted or trusted his grace? Perhaps there is a sense where it is semantics to say we need to be “kind to ourselves”. But when it comes to forgiveness I think we put too much freight on our own ability (perhaps this is even a form of legalism–something worth exploring). Do I need to give myself grace and forgiveness or do I merely need to trust what he has given me? Does the tendency to continue to beat myself up suggest I need to muster the ability to forgive myself or does it suggest that I really don’t believe God has already done this work?

      Frankly, I don’t think I’d be very good at forgiving myself because I really know myself. But if I let it go and trust God is bigger than me and better at forgiving than I am at sinning then I don’t have to worry about self-forgiveness. The work has been done for me. (Does that make sense?)

    • But to answer your question more directly, I would say we do need an attitude of graciousness toward all–which would include ourselves. Again I think it boils down to one who receives mercy is able to extend mercy. When I know that I am truly loved and a recipient of grace then who am I to even worry about myself? As Paul says, “I don’t even judge myself.”

      Thanks for commenting, Paul!

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