One of my readers left asked this question in regards to my post: The Past Hurts, and I thought it was such a great question, I wanted to share it with all of you.
It’s often easier to forgive other people than it is to forgive ourselves of things we’ve done in the past – however distant. I know from my own experience with shame and guilt, that learning to forgive myself was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn.
How to Forgive Yourself
Q: I just discovered your website during my Quiet Day last Friday. The Challenge to Clean is an answer to prayer as the LORD has been speaking to me since last summer (2014) to prepare for the future by decluttering my home. Today’s Challenge to clean my heart is very painful, because the hurt from my past are things I’ve done or neglected to do that have harmed others. Others have suffered or are suffering because of my actions…some of them done, thinking I was doing the right thing but in truth I was being controlling. So I have a question: How does one forgive one’s self for the hurt/harm/consequences they have caused another?
A: Knowing we’ve hurt someone can be very painful and guilt can eat away at us. Lasting consequences may result from our sins, but God can use any situation for good when we give our hearts to Him. God doesn’t want us to carry guilt around for the things we’ve done in the past. Satan is the one who keeps us bound by guilt.
Note: I have added to my original comment below.
4 Steps to Finding Forgiveness:
1. Ask God to forgive you for those things you know you’ve done to hurt others. If you think of particular instances, you can ask for forgiveness about eat one as they come to mind. Once you’ve asked the Lord to forgive you, it’s time to trust that He is faithful to do just that! We don’t have to ask for forgiveness for the same sins over and over again.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
2. Forgive others. It’s important to forgive those in your life who may have deeply hurt you – your parents, husband, friends, etc. Emotional hurts from the past can leave us shattered and vulnerable to hurting others. It’s important to forgive those in your past you left you broken so that healing can begin. You want to end the cycle of hurt.
3. It may be helpful to ask individuals, perhaps family members, who you know you’ve hurt, to forgive you. You want to be humble and demonstrate how genuinely sorry you feel. Accept that the other person may not say exactly what you want to hear if they are not ready to forgive you.
You could go to the person and say something like: “Jenny, I need to ask your forgiveness. I realize now that things I said in the past were hurtful. I felt a need to control you and I’m so sorry for anything I did or said to make you feel less than enough. Will you please forgive me?” And you could share how God has been working in your life and any other details you feel like sharing, but that’s not necessary.
Sometimes, it’s not necessary and would not be helpful to ask others for forgiveness. For instance, if you did something that the other person is not aware of, you may want to give it to the Lord and leave it there. You may feel like you need to share what you did. If you’re uncertain, pray about it and ask God to lead you in doing the right thing.
4. Forgive yourself. This is perhaps the hardest part. But, I’ve found that praying and asking God to help me forgive myself for a wrong is really helpful! Also, realize that you cannot change the past, but that today is what matters. You have a choice each morning to make the right choices. When you give Christ the victory over your life, your past no longer defines you. Instead, your past is the testimony of God’s amazing grace and work in your life! Tell others what Christ has done for you and the changes that have taken place. Share the good news!