I recently reconnected with someone who I have been out of touch with for many years. He needed someone to talk to, and despite how long it had been since we last spoke, he felt confident that I would be able to talk him through some troubles he was currently facing. He feels as if the sins of his past are the reasons why someone he loves is currently mistreating him. But I disagree. Oftentimes, when faced with some sort of suffering, we ask ourselves if these injustices are happening to us because of a wrong we may have committed in our past. We hope that maybe this will justify our current struggles. Instead of focusing on what happened in the past and whatever mistakes we may have made, we should seek forgiveness and find a way to forgive ourselves.
As it is written in Psalms 103:10: He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. And God won’t. God is love and God is always bountiful in His mercy to us. How much time do we spend beating up on ourselves after we made a mistake? We tend to beat up on ourselves so much that there is no room for God to deal with us as our sins merit. God forgave us, but how come we cannot forgive ourselves?
As I reflect on learning to forgive myself, I offer some tips on how we can do this:
- Forgiveness means letting go of the past. In other words, we should not allow our past to be a constant part of our identity. We are not the same as we were yesterday; yet, God’s love for us never changes.
- God forgives your sins, but our bodies won't. As we grow in our relationship with God, and we learn from past transgressions, we work towards forgiving ourselves by releasing the emotion attached to that wrong. Forgiveness requires our whole self: mind, body, and spirit.
- We never really forgive and forget. We may never forget our past, but our memories can be healed. This is a process that takes time. We begin by acknowledging that we have made mistakes or have experienced hurt in our past. Healing is a gift that is offered to us from God.
This Lent, instead of giving something up, we should take on the task of forgiving ourselves. We must be willing to go so far as to forgive someone whose hurtful actions still reside somewhere in our hearts.
Jennifer C. Reid is the Pastoral Associate at St. Columbanus Church. Her Twitter handle is @Corliss615.