I’ve noticed that often when I speak about forgiveness there are those that come to me and say something like this; “I know God forgives me, my family and friends forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself.” I’ll reassure them of God’s forgiveness and pray that God gives them the grace to forgive themselves. Most often, they walk away feeling a little better but still carry the same sense of failure or guilt they came with. Why is it so difficult to forgive ourselves? Too many of us live life under the control of self-judgment. We carry the guilt and shame of past failures, not understanding how to let them go.
Recently, I noticed in Matthew’s account of the betrayal of Jesus by both Peter and Judas. How differently they responded when faced with their sin and failure. Peter “went out and wept bitterly.” Judas “was seized with remorse.” While we may argue that Judas’s betrayal was far greater than Peters, both were guilty of betrayal. Peters bitter weeping lead to reconciliation and restoration. While Judas, being seized with remorse was filled with self-condemnation, hopelessness and regret seeing no way out, he took his own life.
So, Why Is It Difficult To Forgive ourselves?
1. A Limited View of God’s Forgiveness
At the heart of much of our thinking there is a failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness. We believe a good theology of grace but that’s not the way we live. The good news of the gospel of grace has not penetrated to the level of our emotions.
2. Self-Imposed Perfectionists
Anything short of perfect is unacceptable. Often, we find that we are our own greatest critics. Re-evaluating our actions, accomplishments and performance is helpful but self-judgment always destroys.
Once we have judged ourselves our guilty hearts creates a penalty! Deep inside we believe that we don’t deserve to be forgiven. Our self-judgment influences and shapes how we think about ourselves. They have set limitations and boundaries for our lives. Don’t allow failure to define you, let Jesus define you!
4. Fear of Repeating Failures
It has been said “The regrets of the past and the fear of the future are thieves that rob us of the joy and fulfillment of today.” We fear we will do it again if we apply grace to our own lives. So we keep reminding ourselves of our failure. It holds on to us and we hold on to it.