I remember the first time I forgave myself. It was about four years ago.
I had sinned greatly. Repented deeply. Did everything God called me to here. But I couldn’t escape the torment. The weight of the sin was crushing me. I didn’t know if I would survive. I didn’t understand why.
I went to a dear Christian girlfriend to confess. She listened carefully, prayerfully, and said, “You haven’t forgiven yourself.”
What? Honestly, I had never given a thought to forgiving myself. It never even crossed my mind. I had never forgiven myself before. Ever. Didn’t even know I should think about it, let alone do it. I thought, who cares about my unforgiveness of myself? We’re supposed to forgive others, to show compassion and love toward others, to release and pardon others… does it really matter if I forgive myself?
My friend insisted on it, and prayed with me. It was one of the most difficult prayers I have ever prayed. It came out haltingly, chokingly, in great fearful gasps. The release was unlike any I had ever experienced before. Like a strangulating hold was thrown off me.
Sometimes we may look at ourselves with condemning judgment and even hold ourselves to a higher standard than God does. If you are burdened with guilt, self-hatred, or worthlessness, you may not have forgiven yourself. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Mt 6:14). God commands forgiveness – and I believe that includes forgiving yourself.
When we do not forgive ourselves, we are saying that Jesus’ death is not sufficient to cover all our sins. We are declaring that our sins are so great that we need Jesus plus something else to be forgiven. We are trampling on the precious blood of Christ, shed for all our sins. When we forgive, God releases us. And if God releases us, who are we to hold ourselves in bondage?