We all make mistakes, and we forgive others. But often forgiving ourselves is harder.
But we must.
Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that thing you did or continue doing that you can’t release and forgive yourself. Instead, you punish.
I know all about that.
Defiance marked my teenage face, as I screamed at her. She stopped speaking. And I started calling my mom unspeakable names, unleashing words like armed missiles. She would flee, and I would seethe. It was ugly; I was ugly.
In college, I started to follow Jesus and accepted his forgiveness. But I would always say that there was one thing I could not forgive, and that was the way I treated my mom.
So I held on to my guilt and shame. Unknowingly, I beat myself up, launching armed missiles at myself, perpetuating an old wound. It was ugly; I was ugly.
Then one day, some guy I knew talked to me. And somehow we got on this subject, and he said something that I would never forget, “If God can forgive you for everything, why can’t you forgive yourself? Are you better than God?”
I was stunned.
The truth of his statement and the utter blindness of my behavior and mindset were stunning to me. The understanding washed over me like a wave washes over you on the seashore.
My burden melted away from me; I was free.
What I didn’t expect was how much better I was going to feel. The quickness and sharpness of my anger lost its snap and edge. My missiles were disarmed. I felt calmer and was kinder to others, to myself.
It was work, though. It wasn’t just a one and done kind of thing. I had to continually forgive myself, reminding myself of what my friend told me, remembering that it was foolish to beat myself up over my past failings.
And slowly over the years, I wasn’t just continually forgiving myself; I forgave myself.
Forgive yourself. Holding onto your failings, shame, sin doesn’t do anyone good. It certainly does you no good.
It’s counterintuitive to think that if I forgive myself that I will become a better person. It’s tempting to believe that if I just keep on lashing myself with the past, I’ll get better; but it doesn’t work that way. We don’t get better. We get worse.
Shame begets shame; unkindness begets unkindness. It’s a cycle–vicious and bloody.
It takes a radical act to break it.
Forgiveness is the only door through which true healing comes. And that’s exactly what we need to mend our wounds and cease to perpetuate them. We need balm and bandage. We need to forgive ourselves.
And you will find that you will no longer see yourself as that person who did that terrible thing. You will see yourself as a person who can change. You will no longer be trapped in the cage of the past. You will be released to live anew.
You will be free.