Have you ever heard the verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself?” It’s not an easy challenge. What if I told you to “Forgive yourself as you forgive your neighbor.” Would you be able to do that?
Sometimes, it’s easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves.
In my last blog, I wrote about forgiveness being, necessary, possible, and relevant.
My journey of forgiveness is a tale of two steps forward, three steps back. In other words, it felt like I wasn’t making any progress with the “forgiveness” issue.
My husband Jonas would encourage me with one-liners like:
- “Why do you think you have to be in a hurry to forgive?”
- “God is patient and will give you all the time you need.”
- “Forgiveness is a choice, and if you chose to forgive already, why do you think you need to forgive your abuser one more time?”
- “Just because you feel bad does not mean you haven’t forgiven.”
These always provoked my thinking because I worried that maybe I had not forgiven. At that time, I had no clue that my greatest challenge was still ahead of me – forgiving myself.
Forgiveness is not based on a feeling but on a command from Jesus that says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Most people are pulled into this subject because we all experience the need to forgive and be forgiven.
On a human level, forgiveness may seem unreasonable or even impossible, and it moves to a whole other level if someone hurt you in a life-altering way that you face every day.
Forgiveness can be difficult when you’re only thinking about how your life has changed. The deeper the hurt, the angrier you may feel.
Anger comes from one of two sources:
- Someone has hurt you or
- you have hurt someone.
Remember, “Hurt people, hurt people.”
Deep anger towards myself became my issue. I was angry about being hurt and then hurting those I loved. My life had been altered, and I knew it would never be the same.
Anger is an emotion that, when left to itself, can destroy you. Anger will also take you to a place of intense dissatisfaction. It is a relentless master and has no mercy. It can leave you in an unstable state of emotional distress.
Your emotions are like the waves of the sea. They come in, then crest, then break, and go back to sea. When your emotions crest, it feels like the feeling is permanent but give it time, and it will subside.
Refuse to act out. Instead, take a deep breath, be still, and allow Holy Spirit within you to strengthen and help you.
I’m speaking from experience. I understand that when someone is responsible for drastically changing your life, you go into survival mode and focus on navigating through the emotional trauma.
The need to forgive may not enter your mind.
We have to remember that forgiveness is meant to benefit us and not necessarily the person who caused our pain. The benefits are peace of mind and healthier life.
I understood forgiveness to mean, “I must forgive now,” but sometimes people experience such deep pain they cannot think about forgiving immediately.
If you feel like you cannot forgive, at least entertain the thought of being willing. When you’re willing, true forgiveness will be the result.
It was difficult to forgive my perpetrator, who nearly destroyed me. The process was long, but in time I got to a place where I knew I had forgiven him.
Forgiving myself, however, seemed impossible.
Over time, my guilt and anger were more the results of my behavior. My abuser was becoming a distant memory, but I could not get away from myself.
I had experienced total forgiveness from God, my husband, and those I loved. I thought that was enough, but my anger towards myself continued to brew deep within.
I thought I dealt with the pain of my past, but the issue of forgiveness came back up.
I had done the hard work that was required to enjoy inner healing, so why did I still feel the guilt and shame of my past? Why did I feel like anything that went wrong was ALWAYS my fault?
I remember the feeling of defeat was always lurking in the recesses of my mind.
I didn’t know the nagging feeling of guilt was holding me hostage.
I felt unworthy.
Unworthy to be guilt-free.
Unworthy of letting myself off the hook.
Unworthy meant I had crossed a line, and I had to be guilty.
Deep guilt says you have to pay for the damage you’ve done.
The nagging thought of guilt and shame persisted, and I could not let it go. I was forgiven and loved by God and my husband. I forgave my perpetrator. Was that not enough?
During this time, I never thought about forgiving myself. And so, I held myself hostage to the past.
At this point in my forgiveness and healing journey, 28 years had passed since the trauma of my sweet Angie being killed instantly and the abuse by my pastor.
At that time, I had experienced the gamut of self-loathing and self-hatred, leaving me with no self-esteem.
A situation came up in my life, which meant one more counseling appointment. Once again, counseling forced to look at the damage I had done to my husband and family.
After my session, I began feeling the remorse of what seemed to be a lifetime of failure. I was angry!
I found myself sinking into the abyss of depression again. (I thought depression was in my past.)
I was listening to the familiar voice of my past, which always told me I’m a failure.
I should be ashamed of myself.
I didn’t experience freedom.
I wasn’t loving or loveable.
If people “really” knew me.
You’re a terrible wife and mother, and you don’t deserve Jonas or your family.
There’s no hope for a good future.
You’ll never be free of your past!
The voice was loud and sinister. I began to believe it all again.
That day, the question, “What is wrong with me?” consumed my mind like a giant dark cloud hovering over me.
As I was spiraling down into a very dark and familiar place, I cried out to God, “Please help me!”
As I was crumbling beneath the weight of it all, my thoughts were interrupted by this message:
“Anne, I have forgiven you. I left Heaven. I came to earth as the Son of God to experience life as you know it. They rejected me, killed me, hung me on a cross, and buried me. I rose from the dead and ascended back to Heaven. Today I sit at the right hand of my Father, and I am interceding for you. Have I not done enough for you? Anne, there is nothing more I can do for you.”
Then I heard, “Will you forgive yourself?”
The words arrested my distraught mind. They were powerful but tender. The words compelled me to stop weeping, stop struggling, and be still.
Without hesitation, these words rose out of my heart, “Yes, I forgive myself. Yes! Yes, I forgive myself.”
As I expressed my forgiveness, I experienced waves of grace washing over me -- wave after wave after wave.
It’s as though all my guilt and shame were washed away into the sea of forgetfulness never to be remembered again.
I felt like I was being washed clean.
I enjoyed the beauty of the moment, and I sat in the truth of what just happened. I KNEW I had forgiven myself for the first time in almost 30 years, and I began to feel bubbles of joy – unspeakable joy – rising within me.
I got up from where I was sitting and ran over to my husband and said, “Dear, it matters to me about all the things I did to hurt you and the girls, and I’m SO sorry! I’ve paid a big price for all of it by carrying the guilt of it. I will never forget, but right now, I have no more guilt or shame about any of it. It’s completely gone. I don’t want you to think I don’t care. I hope you understand.”
I explained to him what had just happened, and we both knew I had experienced the supernatural power of self-forgiveness.
I’ve just shared with you one of the most powerful moments of my life. I cannot adequately describe or write about it in the same way I experienced it. I pray Holy Spirit will reveal to you the supernatural power of self-forgiveness.
Since forgiving myself, I have not felt guilty or shame since that day. Years of self-loathing, guilt, depression, and “what’s wrong with me” disappeared in a single moment.
To forgive someone who hurt me was miraculous.
To forgive myself was SUPERNATURAL!
I want to ask you – Does your past pull you down?
Are you critical of who you are, never feeling good enough, and not loving yourself? All of that points to the need to forgive.
“Forgive yourself as you forgive your neighbor.”