A few weeks ago, I wrote about how important it is to forgive others – no matter what they’ve done (find that post here). Similarly, we need to forgives ourselves for what we’ve done as well. I know we often tend to be our own worst critics, but none of us are perfect. I’m glad you realize what you did was wrong and I’m happy you have remorse about it. It really is good that you feel that conviction, that guilt. I’d be concerned if you didn’t care at all about what you did. Unfortunately, all of that becomes problematic when you aren’t able to forgive yourself and move forward from it.
The thing about unforgiveness is that the damage is already done, so you’re punishing yourself for something you don’t have the power to change. If you hurt someone else, they may never forgive you, but that doesn’t mean you have to remain bound by your mistake. Even if they never accept your apology, you still need to forgive yourself. They should forgive you, but if not, that’s for them to deal with. Forgiving yourself isn’t about proving to others that you’re better now. It’s about proving to yourself that you’re better now. It’s about striving to be the best person you can be, and you can’t be that person until you forgive yourself.
I once heard that the best apology is changed behavior. If you were wrong, own up to it and start to grow from it. Take the time to do some soul searching here. Why did you do it? Will you ever do it again (*heart check: do you plan on it)? What have you learned from your mistake? Really take the time to get to the root of the problem. Are there patterns in your behaviors? Why do you tend behave in the ways you behave (or think the way you think)? What are your triggers? A lot of times, the mistakes we make (and the toxic decisions that we may not classify as mistakes) stem from issues that are much deeper than what it may look like on the surface. Why do you lie so much? Why do you cheat? Why are you so promiscuous? Why do you hurt everyone you encounter? Why are you abusive? Why can’t you commit? Why can’t you keep a job? Why do you go against your standards to impress people? Whatever it is, you should take a deeper look into it.
I remember a time in particular where I struggled to forgive myself. I made a decision that compromised my values and for a while, couldn’t even figure out why I did it. I wasn’t as hurt by my behavior as I was by not understanding why I acted that way. After weeks of replaying the events leading up to it, I realized there was a mix of deeply rooted feelings of rejection, insecurity, and not wanting to “miss out”. It wasn’t until I had that revelation and started to work through those emotions that I could really begin the forgiving and healing processes.
That mistake wasn’t the first I’d made in that area, it was just the one that finally made me look deeper. I had repeatedly messed up and tried to get out, but it’s hard to break a cycle when you don’t even know why it exists in the first place. When I was finally free, I vowed to never get caught up in that unhealthy cycle again. I had so many conversations with God, just letting Him work on me from the inside out. Am I perfect now? Nope. Do I still have some of those feelings of insecurity, missing out and rejection? Yup. Do I let those emotions take me back to the dark place I was in? Not at all. I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’m never going back there, and while I make new mistakes all the time, I grow from those too.
If God could forgive me for the mistakes I had made, why should I not forgive myself, too? Do any of us deserve to be forgiven? That’s not for me to answer, but the fact of the matter is: we are forgiven. Once you ask for forgiveness, you are instantly forgiven. I also believe God forgives us even before we forgive ourselves. This isn’t to say we should just go out, live however we want, and continuously take His grace for granted. But when we do fall short, we don’t have to punish ourselves. When we do this, it keeps us further from God. When we live our lives in shame and disappointment, we tend to hide ourselves from Him and from others. But there is nothing any of us could do that’s so bad that God won’t forgive us. Again, we may not win the crowds over, but God will always show us mercy.
You can’t continue living a life bound by unforgiveness. If you aren’t able to let go of your past, you will stand in the way of your future blessings. Stop allowing your past to interfere with your future. You may think you can cover it up, walk away from it, and everything work out smoothly, but I’m hear to tell you that it will show back up eventually. You may not make that same mistake again, but it will manifest itself in other ways. It will affect your future. So forgive yourself, get your healing, and start preparing yourself for what’s to come.
The only person standing in your way this time is you. You can’t put this on anyone else. Stop blaming others for why you did what you did and take ownership. Deal with your demons. Allow yourself to feel the pain, anger, disappointment, sadness and shame that accompanies healing, but please come up from it. Please, allow the situation to make you a better person instead of letting it ruin you. Those bad decisions you made don’t define you. You are not the same person you were yesterday. You could start fresh right now. Your mistakes are all apart of your process. Process is sooo important and it’s what makes us unique. Instead of remaining trapped, let your mistakes motivate you to be better as you move forward. One day you’ll be able to look back and testify about how you’ve been made new.
So again, have you grown from your mistake? Have you learned from it? Are you ready to look yourself in the mirror and own up to your mess ups? Have you acknowledged and dealt with the underlying issues? Are you willing to let God work on you inside-out? Are you willing to seek professional help if necessary? If you said yes to any of those, please do yourself a favor and forgive yourself. This is all on you.