Page 4: What If . . .
Why is forgiving ourselves more difficult than forgiving others? We condemn ourselves, thinking we should have known better or been stronger, wiser, or less selfish. It’s as if we leave the door open for the tormentor, Satan, to point his finger and whisper, “Shame on you,” over and over. Why do we sometimes believe the lies of the enemy more than the Truth, Jesus?
From my life and through prayer ministry, I’ve seen that the expectations we place on ourselves are often unrealistic. We recognize mistakes we made and the consequences to ourselves or others and can’t let them go. We think we should have been able to control outcomes or fix situations and tend to blame ourselves for things we didn’t see coming.
Some people are distraught over things they did out of desperation or before knowing God’s ways. Abortion, cheating, deception, adultery—the list is long. Yes, we have consequences, but even after we repent, make amends if needed, and ask God for forgiveness, sometimes we still live in shame. We need to forgive ourselves.
I’ve needed to have the same compassion towards my younger self—the one who knew about God but didn’t know Him—as I have toward others. I’ve had to remember that the only perfect person who ever lived is Jesus, and not be surprised at my imperfection. I’ve needed to forgive myself for words I spoke, perhaps yesterday, that sounded judgmental or were insensitive. I apologize, allow someone to tell me how my words or behavior affected them, and let them know what I would have liked to have said or done if I could do it over. Then I forgive myself.
I’m saddened by the number of people who hold their younger selves captive to judgment. For example, a woman I prayed with could forgive her father for abusing her over and over as a little girl, but she couldn’t forgive that little girl for both hating what her father did, but craving the attention he gave her. She was ashamed of the little girl’s enjoyment of feeling special or needed.
A prayer model we can use as we pray for others and ourselves is to imagine the younger self in conversation with our adult self. With this woman, I asked her to picture the little girl at the age the abuse was taking place along with her adult self. Then we invited Jesus into the prayer picture and she asked Him to show her how He saw her younger self. Jesus revealed the little girl’s confusion, pain, and longing to be loved and safe. The woman’s heart for her younger self broke. In prayer, she spoke,
- Younger (or Little) (her name), I see how scared you are. I see you are defenseless and wronged by the man who was designed to guard and protect you. I’m so sorry all that happened to you.
- Younger (her name), I set you free from the judgments I’ve held against you. I forgive you for not knowing how to change the situation and for enjoying the attention.
- I forgive myself for the hatred, shame, and unforgiveness I’ve carried towards my younger self all these years.
- Jesus, what do You say and do? (Then take time to listen and watch in prayer.)
- Jesus, how will You use this for good in my life (Romans 8:28)?
In each situation, Jesus does something different. In our prayer picture, He may initiate a group hug or walk away holding our younger self’s hand to go be with Him, but at the same time coming to us and setting us free from the shame and weight of the unforgiveness we’ve carried. He showed this woman how she had been given extraordinary compassion for children and an ability to love in difficult situations.
We are not the exception to the gift Jesus gave when He died on the cross. We are forgiven. It’s time to forgive ourselves. Then we are free to love and serve others more whole-heartedly.
If we humbly confess and acknowledge our terminal selfish condition,
he faithfully and rightly forgives us for all the mistakes we made
while living in selfishness; but more importantly–
he heals us from all corruption, decay, and sickness of heart and mind.
–1 John 1:9 (The Remedy paraphrase)
Try it out:
David, God’s anointed king over Israel, lied, committed adultery, and had a man murdered. Yet God called him a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). How could that be? David repented, dealt with the consequences of sin, and kept going back to God. He knew he was far from perfect, but he continually pursued the only One who is.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you,
O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
–Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT)
Pray: Lord, I come to You for Your perspective, insight, and heart. You are the only One who can satisfy the deep longings in my heart. I want to live in freedom—forgiving others as well as myself. Show me, Lord, if there’s any place I’m carrying unforgiveness toward myself.
(Take time to listen. God will reveal it if there is.)
(If something comes to mind, go through the prayer exercise above, adapting it to your situation. Be sure to take time to listen to God. He is the Healer, Restorer, and Priest. Allow Him to minister to you.)
Lord, You called David a man after your own heart. What do You call me?