Forgiving Myself

Recent posts have focused on responsibility and compassion as the secret keys unlocking forgiveness.  But what if the person I need to forgive is me?  What if I don’t feel accepted and loved—by myself, God or anybody else?  How do I find the place where honest introspection feels safe so that taking responsibility and finding compassion for myself are even possible?  

An adroit Beliefnet commenter shared a great insight in response to a post on shame.  Pastorsrus said, “Most do pretty well in loving God (although that love can be distorted because of life experience) and somewhat well in terms of loving others. Most fail miserably at loving themselves.”  And she concludes, “In short, people need to see themselves from God’s perspective, through His eyes.” 

Her insight harmonizes with the approach previous posts contemplated to forgive unremorseful offenders.  Namely, get the offender (in this case, myself) out of the center of the matter and put God there instead.  Rather than focusing on what I deserve, I can focus on what God desires.  Does God want to punish me for all the ways I fall short and miss the mark?  Or is God hoping and waiting for me to turn to him, and in so doing to turn away from the earthly cares that pull me down and away from him?  What kind of relationship will this be? 

What we believe about God informs how we relate to him, so part of the journey entails exploring our beliefs and coming into an understanding, or a deeper understanding, of God.  That will be the topic for the next series of posts, but let it suffice here to look to the analogy Jesus used—that of God as a forgiving parent.  

All summer, my youngest daughter has been persistently breaking all of the few house rules we have.  Do I sit tapping my fingers waiting for the next infraction so that I can leap into punishment?  No, I hope against hope that she will choose to cooperate with her family.  Frankly, we’ve all grown weary of escalating consequences that impact everyone around her, limiting her sisters’ fun to some degree and making more work for parents to enforce than for kids to endure. 

What does God do when we make bad choices?  Scripture does not say whether God gets frustrated or disappointed or exhausted or crestfallen like human parents.  It does say God never stops seeking us, continually giving us grace in his infinite love, and that he is overjoyed by our turning to him.  Christians believe Jesus came into the world to save sinners, helping them return to relationship with God.  On that basis, reconciliation is the whole point of Christianity. 

Reconciliation and healing are mysterious processes.  While we can’t summon them like a twinkie out of a vending machine, we can take concrete steps to expose ourselves to God’s healing power.  Hope arrives when we decide God’s desires for us are more important than what we think we deserve.  When we put God’s desires first and surrender to his unending desire for relationship with us individually, surely we are on the path to healing and self-love.  

Join the conversation.  How have you released resentment and found compassion for yourself?

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