Last week I posed the question, “Is self-forgiveness possible?” In that post, I stated that I do not believe a person can forgive themselves and gave two reasons why I think that way. If you missed that post, I encourage you to go back and read it…Read Part 1 here.
Today I am continuing with Part 2…my view on the truth behind the commonly mislabeled, “forgiving myself.”
First, let me reiterate, it is my goal to shed light on a pathway to freedom! Forgiveness untethers us from the suffering sin causes. It breaks my heart to see my friends stuck in patterns of pain. If I have a garden and you are malnourished, I want to share the abundance I have! I’d also love to give you the seeds to plant a garden of your own. So, come see what I have that will fill your empty spaces!
I mentioned last week that I think of forgiveness as a formula. Here is my interpretation of that formula: The Offender wounds and is responsible forrepentance. The Offended is responsible for canceling the debt. The Offender must receive the cancellation as the price for the wrong.
Do you see that the formula looks more like a circle than a line? The Offender begins and ends the transaction with two points of humility.
Point 1: Repentance is a recognition of wrong AND a sorrow for causing pain.
I was envious of you. I stole from you. I hurt you. I am sorry.
There is no room for justification or “let me tell you why,” in repentance. If I need to explain myself, I am not taking responsibility for my action nor am I sorrowful for sinning against you. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is!
Imagine if I told Jesus, “I had a really good reason for hurting you!” Can you picture the look on his face? Maybe he would silently show me the holes in his hands.
Gulp. Oh. Yeah.
That bit of visualization leads me to the second point of humility and completion of the forgiveness formula.
Point 2: Receiving payment for my sin.
Accepting the fact that someone else has paid my bill requires humility.
In the United States, we pride ourselves on our independence. But, honestly, I think our pride and independent spirit originated long before in the biting of a forbidden fruit.
One evening, when I was in my early twenties and living independently on little more than minimum wage, my boyfriend called me after work inviting me to his house for dinner. Knowing I was down to my last pennies and worried that I would not have enough gas to get to work if I drove, I replied with a counter-offer suggesting he come to my house. We volleyed back and forth until finally I confessed to being too poor to afford the three mile drive. I felt humiliated in admitting how broke I was! That awesome guy responded to the truth of my situation by coming to me, picking up my car and filling it with a tank of gas. Boy, was my pride cut!
There was absolutely nothing I could do to pay. I could have chosen to refuse the tank of gas, but honesty and humility knew I needed it. If I had rejected the gift, I would have missed out on growing the bond of our relationship.
Was my date angry at me or my situation? No. He was delighted to come to my rescue!
When we wrong others and they offer forgiveness, we can choose to reject it, listening to pride’s rasp, “You don’t deserve their payment. YOU didn’t pay for this.” In this way, independence and pride get in the way of unity and relationship.
Pride is a chameleon. It lays camouflaged and acts without notice. However, the consequences of refusing payment for our debts are symptoms that reveal pride’s presence. Those symptoms can include fear, resentment, isolation, self pity, anger and selfishness. Ugh.
Taking pride’s side leads to more sin. Insisting on independence results in loneliness.
The opposite of pride is humility, and that’s great news because humility is the soft heart required in the circle of the forgiveness formula. It’s the yielding ingredient in points one and two!
Forgiving myself is a misnomer. Receiving my pardon is the correct title.
Rather than saying, “I struggle to forgive myself,” the issue at hand is, “I resist in having my debt paid.”
In last week’s post, I mentioned that wronging a friend is also sin against God. If loving others is loving God, then hurting others, too, is an offense against the Father. Jesus stated, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40
The point of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is for forgiveness of sin and reconciliation of relationship. To believe in Jesus is to receive God’s pardon.
I delight in the book of Ephesians for Paul’s explanation.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…” Eph 2:1
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved -” Eph 2:4-5
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Eph 2:8 (Emphasis mine)
Note the emphasis I’ve added to verse eight? This is not your own doing. These are the words I draw from. We cannot forgive ourselves…for that is a saving of oneself. We can, however, accept the death of Jesus as payment for our debt against God. To accomplish this requires a daily, hourly, or maybe a minute by minute commitment to humility over pride. There’s no, “yeah but” about it. No justification exists other than Christ’s covering.
What if I don’t feel free? There’s scripture to help with that too. 1 John 3:19-20 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”
Why should my heart condemn me? Jesus paid my price and God knows that truth.
Sometimes we don’t feel it because we are still in the process of getting to know God. Sometimes there is a lag between knowing the truth and feeling the truth. Have you ever been angry and been all riled up only to find out you were wrong? It takes time to come down off the adrenaline. However, if you are struggling long with symptoms of unforgiveness or you feel condemnation, I hope you will sit with the Lord and ask Him to reveal whether this might be pride within you.
Can I pray for us, dear friend?
Good and grace-filled Father, I sit at your throne in awe of your love and mercy. Your word says that you arelove, so it’s there that I rest and ponder. Thank you for loving me so much! Thank you for loving humanity so much that you made yourself a man meant to suffer, die and conquer. Conquer! Thank you for supplying all that we need to be reunited with you and our community. Help us identify pride and to cast it off, that we might accept your love offering. Align our hearts that we might love others well…forgiving them as you forgive. -In Jesus name.