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Self Forgiveness – 8 Ways to Forgive Yourself

forgive myself, how to forgive yourself
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Update: What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is an active word – a word that can cause us great relief, joy, freedom, and peace.  Even with what we might call “slight” mistakes, small hurtful actions, petty cash thievery – these give us anxious feelings, broken relationships, and perhaps even legal consequences.  How we long to be forgiven! Find out more about forgiveness here.

Conviction of sin – whether we steal, cheat, overtly harm or destroy another, or demean another – is a feeling we are familiar with – whether we have a heart tender toward God, or if purposely running with Satan.  We know when we have done wrong. We writhe with the angst within us. The youngest child knows when he has done wrong. We cannot whitewash sin.  In our hearts, we long for forgiveness.

Our Hearts Crave Forgiveness 

Forgiveness from the person/persons we have sinned against, injured in any way, destroyed the reputation of, or deserted.  Even in the most hardened heart is the desire for that sinned- against-person/persons, or Creator God to tell them that not only are they forgiven but they are washed clean – the slate is blank.

A jury may give the longed-for verdict: pardoned, exonerated, excused, or let-off.  These words give a wonderful momentary sense of relief to the accused.  

But does that absolve the burden of the sin within us? Forgiveness from another is relief in a human relationship.  

However, there is still a known burden of knowing that we all have sins that others cannot forgive – that we are filled with sins that only God by his grace and mercy can remove. The weight of that sin drives many to depression, dejection, and the feeling there is no hope for them.

But there is great Hope, my friend. 

In the Bible we read in Romans 5:8, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5.

How wonderful and uplifting it is when a friend, an acquaintance, or a family member says they forgive you. Yet, to know and find the forgiveness of all your sin by the God of the Universe, Jesus Christ – well, that is completely awesome!  Not because we deserve it, but because we are trusting Him to forgive that sin because he paid for it with his death on the cross – because of His great love.  

And Jesus was victorious over your sins and the sins of the world when he died, was buried, and was resurrected.  From His throne in heaven, God forgives our confessed sin when we trust Him as Savior and make Him Lord in our lives. 

Forgiveness and Redemption

Now that is forgiveness!  That is a new birth! That is redemption! Your sin – my sin – paid for by the only one worthy of being able to do so.  And this is what opens the gates of heaven when you die – all because of the forgiveness that Jesus Christ has accorded you when you receive him as your Lord and Savior.

Easy?  It wasn’t easy for Jesus to be nailed to the cruel cross.  Simple?  Not really – can you defeat the gates of hell on your own?  Redemption and Forgiveness come from Almighty God. Not our works or goodness.  Just His grace.

It was His Love for you – It was His Love for me – that nailed him to the tree.  And when we confess that sin with a meaningful, heartfelt “Lord, I know I have sinned and am not worthy to stand before you, but I believe you died for my sins, in my place, so that I can live with you forever, come into my heart, forgive all my sin, and make me yours, make me new. I trust only you.” – it is then we can know eternal forgiveness from God. 

Jesus left heaven to die in your place. What mercy, What love, and What grace! 

Dr. Shannan Crawford helps us understand how we can forgive and love ourselves fully.

Read on for 8 ways to forgive yourself.

Have you done something for which you can’t figure how to forgive yourself? Every time you see the person you wronged, or are in a certain situation that reminds you, it all comes down on you all over again?

You are not alone. Forgiving is hard enough, but it can be even harder when you’re trying to forgive yourself. We are often our own worst critics, and that only amplifies the problem for most of us. Yet the power of forgiveness is undeniable.

Here are 8 tips that can help you learn how to forgive yourself, and then actually do it. These aren’t in any particular order, and are not comprehensive – they’re only tips that might help you make your way down the road to forgiving yourself.

8 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward

  1. Apologize and ask forgiveness
  2. Write down the lesson learned
  3. Admit you are not perfect
  4. Stop playing the video
  5. Receive the same grace you would extend to others
  6. Put down a physical marker
  7. Resolve to do better
  8. Trust the original forgiver

Apologize and Ask Forgiveness

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best answer. Have you asked forgiveness from the person you wronged? If not, do it now! You might be surprised to find out that they’re thinking about it way less than you are, and have possibly even already forgiven you. That would be best case scenario, so don’t pass it up!

But even if they’re still as mad as you thought they might be, to apologize and ask their forgiveness is the most important step toward forgiving yourself anyway.

Write Down the Lesson Learned

Life is a series of mistakes. In fact, economic adviser Dave Ramsey says, “The shiny mountain of success is actually a pile of your mistakes that you are standing on instead of lying under.” Of course, he’s talking about business decisions, but that principle can be applied to our relationships as well.

If you’ve made a mistake and can’t seem to forgive yourself, get out some paper and a pen or pencil and write down what you learned, old-school style! It helps to get it out and put it down in such a physical fashion; and if you keep it where you can see it, it might serve to prevent you from revisiting that guilt in the future. It can also possibly prevent you from making the same mistake again.

Admit You are Not Perfect

To be honest, none of us is perfect, and that includes you (and me)! Did you make a mistake? Yes. Did anyone else you know of ever make a mistake? Yes. Do you think somebody else might have even screwed up worse than you did? Definitely.

So guess what, we’re all in the same boat. Once you realize that, and realize that you are truly no worse than the rest of humanity (and more than likely, you’re in the top 50 percent, at least!), you will be better equipped to experience some forgiveness from yourself. 

Don’t get me wrong – just because “everybody else does it too” is no excuse for hurting someone or making a bad decision. However, it might help us let go of some of the undue pressure or guilt we might be piling on ourselves, especially if we’ve already received forgiveness from the victim of our dumbness!

Stop Playing the Video

Do you keep replaying the event or the deed over and over in your head? That’s not completely unnatural, but there’s a point where you have to stop playing it, and move forward. Have you asked forgiveness? If not, do that first. Is there anything more you can do to help the situation? If so, do that too. But if you’ve done all that, and still the video plays over and over, hit stop! Find another video to play.

Receive the Same Grace You Would Extend to Others

If someone did the same to you, would you forgive them? Would you possibly give them a break, because you know nobody is perfect, and you care too much about them to hold something like that against them? Then maybe you need to turn that grace around and extend it to yourself. Realize that you’re not special – at least, not in the sense that you require more forgiveness than others. If it’s possible to extend grace to others, extend it to yourself too!

Put Down a Physical Marker

Sometimes it can help to mark the official end of your unforgiveness with something physical: write yourself a letter, go on a hike & allow yourself to process it all one more time, or create something like a simple sculpture or a pile of rocks to mark the end of it. Make a decision that it’s over, mark it physically, and agree that it’s now over and you are officially letting it go.

Resolve to Do Better

If we learn from our mistakes we’re making progress, so don’t let your mistakes be in vain. Resolve that the next time you are in a similar position, you will do better. Practice it in your mind, go over what you will say or do next time instead of going over what you should have said or done last time. Make a positive plan for the future, and let the past be the past.

Trust the Original Forgiver

The God who created all of us is the original Forgiver, and if we can trust his forgiveness, we can absolutely forgive ourselves, once and for all. If we can see ourselves the way he sees us, our world becomes radically different.

If you haven’t trusted God to forgive you, watch the video on this page and see how you can do that – then realize that if he forgives you, you’re forgiven! As believers in him, we are seen by God as spotless and perfect, which is the greatest of all great news.

Since we aren’t perfect, we still have to navigate the consequences; but the underlying truth is that once we’ve trusted God to forgive us, we have been completely and unequivocally forgiven. Others may or may not forgive us, because they don’t necessarily see us the way God sees us. But his opinion is the opinion that matters.

Another great little tidbit: he doesn’t expect us to fix everything, because that’s his job! We can only do what we can do, but then we can trust him to take it from there. 

Once you’ve trusted God to forgive you in the first place, you can rest assured that he does not condemn you, and he has a great plan for the rest of your life that does not include guilt! He let his only son die in our place, not so we could feel guilty for all the stuff we screwed up on, but so we could be released from it and live an amazing life, both now and forever with him.

We invite you to watch the “Great News” video on this page and find out more about God’s love for you and how you can receive forgiveness and eternal life – today!

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The Prayer of Salvation

Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

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