This is not a fun topic. I even hesitate to write on it, except that it is a big part of my own journey/story, and I just wonder if I have any fellow travelers out there on this road. Truly it IS a broken road – The Broken Road of Guilt. The least favorite road I have ever traveled; the one where I fall into many dark pot holes and I get stuck on the side of the road wondering if I really can finish this race.
I cannot forgive myself for things I know Jesus has forgiven me for.
Maybe that sounds like an oxymoron, but it is the truth. So the topic at hand is – how do I or maybe WE learn to forgive ourselves for things we feel are unforgivable. How do we really not forever walk on the broken road of guilt?
Guilt & Forgiveness
What I have first come up with is to search out God’s words on self-guilt and on self-forgiveness. I have lived long enough to know that how I FEEL is not necessarily a truth. If God has forgiven my failures, what then is His thoughts to me on how to forgive myself? I sincerely have tried, and I can not.
Wow. Psalms 103:10 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” If He dealt with me as harshly as I judge myself, well – He doesn’t. As I have said before, God knew we needed a Savior, so He sent us Jesus. Regardless of our sin, He will forgive us because of His love for us. Psalm 32:10 says, “I acknowledged my mistakes to You, and You forgave them.” Romans 3:23 says, “We ALL fall short of the glory of God.” Quite honestly, I get that and I believe that. I just have a hard time letting go of my failures, especially when I realize they touched others. I think that is the guilt part for me – that in my mistakes, I caused the pain of others. As a spouse or parent or friend or sibling or any part of any relationship, none of us want to be the reason for another’s pain.
So let’s explore the wrong that has been done – it was given to God and forgiven, however we stored it in our own mind and heart and it is forever attached to guilt, or shame, or sadness. If your mind and heart feels so strongly about what you uploaded into them, you will always feel exactly the same way when brought back to the doors of the failure. First of all, IF we hurt or failed someone, most probably it was NOT intentional or we wouldn’t have done it to begin with – not to someone we genuinely loved. Maybe we made decisions based on those current situations and thought processes at the time, and maybe not born out of real truth or real knowledge or intention.
If we are at the point to actually admit we DID fail, that really is a good thing. It is? It is. Not fun, but essentially good – because ultimately it is only in facing the painful truth that we are free from its tight, suffocating grasp of guilt. So in owning our failure, it is the foundation for moving past it. If it hurt someone else, that feels tougher. There lies the relentless guilt that gets a firm grip on us. I think it really IS all about whether or not we truly believe we are forgiven.
After Jesus forgave the adulterous woman He said, “GO and sin no more.” There is seemingly nothing profound in those 5 words; no long sermon or theological thesis. Except it truly holds the key to forgiving ourselves! Two parts in 5 words – GO. He told her to GO. We could interpret that as telling her to get up off the ground (groveling in the dirt in her guilt and reproach), and then – SIN NO MORE. “Go, and sin no more.” Whatever she did before (sin, failures, regrets etc.) stop doing it! WOW. I asked God to forgive my failure, but I remained face down in the dirt in my shame and reproach when what I NEEDED to do was simply move on from it, and change whatever it was I failed at.
I think I got this! “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15) Sometimes we feel like the chief sinner, the chief failure, the one who knocked the earth off its orbit by our mistake. For THIS reason, Jesus came. For my sin, Jesus came. For my failure, Jesus came. For my shame, Jesus came. For my redemption, Jesus came.
“No one who believes in the Lord will be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11)
Time to get up – dust ourselves off – move on and be better and do better. Time for making intentional successes out of unintentional failures. Time to see our Savior make a message out of our messes. It is time to see the weight of our sin become the weight of His glory. Trade it in. It is time.