Forgive Yourself

Written by M. Larson

As an instructor at a Christian writer’s conference, I was scheduled to spend half-hour advisory sessions with students who signed up to talk to me. But my appointment with Jennifer* turned out to be a personal counseling session!

“I’m divorced,” the young woman told me. “I have two little children, and now they have been robbed of their father because of me. I know it’s my fault our marriage went on the rocks, and I’m so miserable about it day in and day out that I just don’t know what to do!”

“Have you tried to get back with your husband?” I asked.

“It’s too late,” she said sadly. “He’s now married to someone else.”

‘Well, have you asked the Lord’s forgiveness for the mistakes you’ve made?”

“Oh, yes!” she exclaimed. “You don’t know how many times I’ve wept before the Lord! I know I was wrong, and I’ve truly repented.”

” And you know that you’re saved, that you’re a child of God through faith in Christ?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “That’s what makes my mistakes so hard to bear. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a child. But I got away from Him–and you make a lot of foolish mistakes when you’re not living for the Lord. Now I just hate myself–I can’t stand myself!”

Remedy for self-recrimination

Jennifer broke down and wept. I put my arms around her. “Jennifer, the Bible says in First John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ Do you believe that?”

She nodded and wiped a tear from her cheek. “Yes, I know the Bible says that, and I want to believe it–and I guess I do. But I can’t help hating myself for having made such a mess of my life and of my children’s!”

“Jennifer,” I said, “if God forgives you, shouldn’t you be willing to forgive yourself? Do you know what Jesus said were the two great commandments? They are, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength,’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

She nodded, “Yes, I want to obey those commandments. ”

“But what does the second one say?” I prompted.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“As yourself,” I repeated. “Jennifer, do you think you can fully obey that command to love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love yourself? If you continue hating yourself, it will affect all your relationships with your fellow man, won’t it?”

She stared at me. “I never thought of it that way before.”

“Well, hatred toward other people should have no part in a Christian’s life, Jennifer,” I said. “Certainly we should hate sin as God does. But we should also love the sinner as God does. And you will not be able to obey the second great commandment unless you forgive yourself and go on from there with the Lord. All the brooding in the world over your past mistakes will not make you a better Christian, will it? But if you have learned something from your mistakes, and if you have rededicated your life to the Lord, then you can look forward to a future of living for Him and training your children in the way they should go. Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes, I think I do! ” she exclaimed, with hope shining in her eyes.

“You can’t undo the past, Jennifer,” I said. “It does no good to continue beating yourself over the head. God wants us to put our defeats behind us and move ahead to victory. Take as your Scriptures what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.'”

Jennifer jotted down the references for these verses. She laughed shakily. “Oh, thank you so much for your help!” she exclaimed. “I guess our time is about up–and we never did get to talk about writing!”

Smiling I said, “Well, sign up for a half-hour session tomorrow!”

Leave the past behind

Satan causes many of us to become ineffective Christians by convincing us that we can’t forgive ourselves! When we are miserable, there’s no way we can exhibit to the world around us the light, peace, and joy that only Christ can give. Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Why should we help him by continually accusing ourselves? Repent of sin, yes. Confess sin, yes. Turn from sin, yes. But let us also accept God’s provision for sin.

The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Do we believe that? Then we must stop brooding over the past. What’s done is done! We must put all our sins under the blood in repentance, accept God’s forgiveness, and go on from there.

Unhappy memories? Put them under the blood. Regrets? Put them under the blood. Anger toward yourself? Put it under the blood.

Ask the Lord to wash away anything that is hindering you from going forward with Christ. If you have received Christ as your Savior, then God will make all things work together for your ultimate good. You are His child, and He loves you.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord, I need you now more than ever. I want your peace of mind. In the midst of my broken heart and my pain, I turn to you. Jesus, I ask you to forgive my sins and to give me your peace and comfort. I open the door of my life and put my trust in you.

If you sincerely expressed that prayer to God, you can know that you have a personal relationship with Him. He will be your comfort in these troubled times. God promises us “peace that passes understanding” in other words peace in a world that doesn’t make sense. You can know peace and hope even when your world is in turmoil. God does not change. Ever.

*Names have been changed

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11 Responses to “Forgive Yourself”

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up who is going through forgiveness within themselves. I pray that you will respond to them Oh Lord and help them see the full picture of what they are going through in life. In Jesus Mighty name amen

  • Gaby says:

    Hi lisa, how you dealt with regret and guilt. I’m going through the same thing as you did three years ago please help!! Thank you

  • Lisa says:

    I am dealing with this now. My husband of 27 years is divorcing me due to my disrespect, irresponsible spending and arguing. I have made it worse by arguing to try to get him to stay in the marriage. All that did was prove to him that he was right to leave. I hate myself for it. If I had handled things differently maybe he would have stayed. Our kids are brokenhearted and we also have to sell our house where our kids were raised. So much pain, and I feel it’s all my fault. I wish so badly he would give me another chance but he won’t. I don’t know how to deal with my guilt and regret.

  • ashley says:

    Thank-you! i did enjoy it. and i never realized what a crazy time in my life this would be right now. i’m learning more and more to just trust and rely on God.He is the only One who can truly help through anything and everything, the good and the bad.

  • I rejoice, Ashley, if this article of mine has helped you! My articles, “Moving On From The Past” and “Feelings, Forgiveness, and Peace” might also be of help. They are listed with their urls on my website: http://AdviceDrMuriel.blogspot.com
    May our Lord lift you abovs everything with His love, peace, and joy, as He did for me.

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Hi Tommy,

    It sounds like you’ve had a lot to think about lately. It’s great to hear that you have a Bible and have been reading it, but you know you don’t have to start at the beginning. Try reading the book of John first – it’s the 4th book in the New Testiment (the second half of the Bible). John tells the story of Jesus, of how much he loves you and what he did for you. If you’d like to talk to someone as you read through the book you can do the lesson here Pictures of Jesus (Portraits of Christ) the lessons talk about the different ways the book of John describes Jesus, who he is and what our relationship with him is like. If you decide to do the lesson when you get the end of each section you’ll see a place to send your answers to a study coach. The coach (sometimes called a mentor) will write back to you to discuss what you’re learning, answer questions along the way and pray for you if you’d like. It can be a great way to learn and it’s free and private. Another lesson you might find interesting the is Knowing Jesus Personally series. These lessons were written for people who have recently accepted Jesus – they’re a great place to start. The lessons have videos to watch and questions to think about. They also come with a study coach so you don’t have to learn alone.

    Don’t worry if you doubt sometimes, a lot of people go through occasional times of doubt. Our doubt doesn’t make God any less real, it can’t hurt him. I hope this can help. If you’d like to talk to a mentor without doing a lesson, you can do that too. Just use this form to ask a question and your mentor will email you back. You can ask anything, it’s free and private.

  • Tommy says:

    I’ve always been somewhat confused weather or not to believe there is a god, a heaven or even an afterlife for that matter. I’ve done some things I remember as a young child that have haunted me for 9 almost 10 years now, I didn’t kill anything or anyone, I was curious about sexuality and well, I did some things that I’m ashamed of. I’m 17, almost turning 18 now, I recently was caught selling weed and I ended up in juvie for the first time in my life, told i was going to sit one night and i would go home to my family the next day, i sat 11 days instead, It was a hell for me. I know 11 days isnt much but it really shook me, I felt so much regret for what it put my parents through mentally and physically. While I was in there I prayed more than ever before, A pastor came in every few days to talk to us..he gave us a few talks on the bible, I felt like it all happened to put me in this place, this cold cramped room with no freedom, to meet this man in my time of confusion and worry. My amazing step mother came to visit me every day, after she came to visit i went back to my cell, I showed up just as the pastor was leaving the room and he pulled me aside and asked me if i believe in christ and accept him as my lord and savior and I looked him in the eyes and I told him yes, he smiled and placed his arms on my shoulders and told me to close my eyes and asked me questions one after another, do you accept the lord jesus christ as your savior and trust your life and soul to him? “yes” i said, to every question. He pulled me in and hugged me tight and said that my sins have been forgiven, i felt a huge weight lift off my heart and i felt tears in my eyes it was amazing and I am crying just explaining the experience. I hugged him back and thanked him he smiled again and he left, the man was a volunteer, who took time out of his day to go into such a cold dark place as a detention center to speak to us. Those who did not want to talk about it he did not push it on them, i respect this man with every bit of my soul. I layed in the cold cell that night, thinking about the way things have worked throughout my life, every time i start going down a wrong path, the love of my family and my friends changes me. I prayed with every bit of my soul that night, i prayed my heart out I cried and I felt so good, I felt accepted.
    I now own a bible, I read genesis while i was juvie, I am waiting a while before I continue. I may be a little unsure sometimes, but It seems that there is always this inner voice that believes in god, I always find myself praying from time to time, I appolagize to god for being unsure sometimes and I hope he understands this. But now, looking back on everything ive gone through, not just this whole juvie thing, but my life’s path…It seems like god has been watching me, even when i didnt believe like i do now, he was there for me guiding me and helping me when things started to go wrong. I’m learning that I need to forgive myself for my past, I have changed a lot and learned a lot. I believe god is understanding. I am going to sleep now, heh its 3 in the morning and i just got hit with thought so i decided to talk about it. Thanks for posting all this and thanks for reading this It would be cool to hear feedback or stories from more of you.

  • Cassie says:

    I agree with Ashley. This really is an inspiration and I must say it gave me comfort as well. I’ve been a Christian all my life but have been finding it hard to forgive myself of my mistakes and it’s just good to hear such a positive and uplifting story. It’s really opened my eyes to see that if God can forgive me then who am I to think any differently and keep a grudge against myself. Thank you for your words and please keep writing.

  • dave says:

    so glad to read this. i gave my life to christ over 12yrs ago. but i got engaged to my heartrob 5yrs ago, i kept he relationship undefiled but at a point i knew i was tired, i push to tie it up but my in-law delayed it unneccessarily, i then messed-up(had sex with her). i confessed and believe in Gods forgiveness but i found it difficult to let go the pains, regrets etc for having denied myself so long and cant kept the testimony though …

  • ashley says:

    this was inspiring. i’m not divorced, or even married yet, but i have kind of had this same issue going on- the battle of regret and worry over a matter that happened around a year ago (and then some). i’ve spent many prayers just asking God to erase it from my mind- but i know He has forgiven me of it. and the past is the past- i can only move on and eventually those memories will fade as we move onto wiht our lives together. i’m so glad i read this today!

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