In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote from Joan Baez – “Forgiveness of self is the hardest of the forgivenesses.”
I’ve posted here a few times about loving oneself before one can love others. A key to loving what and who you are is forgiving yourself for the mistakes that you’ve made in life. We all tend to beat ourselves up for doing something stupid or failing because of a bad decision or maybe even making a horrible mistake that costs us a friendship or even a loved one. It is hard to forgive ourselves for those mistakes, yet it is essential in order to move on with life.
I think the thing that we need to do first, in order to forgive ourselves is to accept that God loves us so much that he forgives whatever we have done and continues to embrace us. Once you can accept God and His love into your life, you will find it easier to forgive yourself and move on. It allows you to refocus from the thoughts of “I wish that I hadn’t” onto thoughts of “I still can”. It resets your sights from the past towards the future. It allows you to move on from “What did I do” and instead start thinking about “What can I do”.
That refocus to the future points to another aspect of forgiving yourself and that is learning from your mistakes and doing better in the future. The goal is not to somehow wipe out the memory of whatever it is you did; rather, it is to learn from it so that you don’t do it again and perhaps even change the course of your life because of that learning. We see stories on the news every now and then about ex-cons wo go on after their incarceration to become leaders and motivators in their communities. They forgave themselves and changed the course of their lives.
Most of us will not have an event as dramatic in our lives as going to prison; however, we have almost daily instances of the need to forgive ourselves for some small mistake or oversight that causes a guilty feeling. You know that you feel guilty when you look the other way and hurry past that Red Kettle outside the store or that beggar on the street corner. And how about being too much in a hurry to hold that door open for the person just behind you at the store or maybe forgetting about a loved one’ birthday or your own anniversary? Those are little things that make you feel bad about yourself later. There are, of course, bigger things in many people’s lives; however they are forgivable, too.
Maybe you can start each day with a prayer asking God to forgive you and for His help in forgiving yourself. More importantly, start each day accepting God’s forgiveness and forgiving yourself. Start your day with that clean slate, instead of carrying around a “rap sheet” of past crimes.
God loves us and forgives us. I forgive me. Now, you forgive you and this will be a great day for both of us.
“What can I do?” comes after the person has been forgiven? BUT, what if the person harmed refuses to forgive?
Thanks for your blog, Norm.