Not too long ago, it was the birthday of a dear friend who I had known for 30 years. While I never failed to wish her happy birthday and had always enjoyed the catching up during this day, I could never shake off the feeling that I had disappointed her 20 years ago. It was not a big incident but it nagged at me whenever I thought of her. Our friendship was maintained after the incident and it felt silly to apologize for it now. Why can’t I forgive myself for it?
God forgives you, so can you
When I read Leviticus 4 and 5 about sin offering, I was heartened to know that God would forgive. It almost felt like God went out of his way to offer forgiveness. The whole of Leviticus 4 is on the offerings to provide when one sins unintentionally – I love this because despite our desire to be good and live according to the will of God, every so often we may slip especially if we let ourselves get sucked into materialism.
The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commandsLeviticus 4:1-2 (NIV)
Leviticus 5 provides for different items of sin offerings, such that everyone can have something to offer – if one could not afford a lamb, he could bring two doves or two young pigeons; and if he didn’t have those, he could bring flour. It is clear then it is God’s desire that everyone would be able to atone for their sins and receive forgiveness.
If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour for a sin offering…Leviticus 5:11 (NIV)
God’s heart is seen clearly when Jesus died for our sins. This cost a lot (what could be more worthy than God’s son?) and we have to take that step to accept Jesus.
- Knowing that our God is forgiving
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NIV)
Our God is a forgiving God. Knowing that God will forgive us, we can then have the confidence that we can forgive ourselves.
Taking steps to forgive ourselves
There are some practical steps we can take to forgive ourselves, here are a few from DaveRamsey.com1:
- Recognize the cost of unforgiveness
- Decide to forgive yourself
- Own and grieve the consequences
- Learn from your mistakes
Of all the negative feelings we can have, guilt is one of the worst. If we forgive ourselves, we also let go of guilt. It doesn’t mean that we have righted our wrong but that we accept that we were wrong and find a way to move forward. Journaling and praying can be used to help us forgive ourselves. When we journal, we naturally put some distance from our thoughts (onto paper) and we can even try writing an apology letter (you don’t have to send it!).
Try journaling. Try praying. And if you are not a Christian, try going to church or finding an online faith community to share your burdens.
Leviticus 4 & 5 Journaling Prompt
How does knowing that God’s desire that all can be forgiven affect how you view the guilt that you hold on to?
What are the steps that you will take to start forgiving yourself?
God, some days I think about the things that I have done wrong, or could have done better. Help me to process these feelings and learn to live righteously.
Books on Forgiveness
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1 Dr John Delony. How to Forgive Yourself. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-forgive-yourself DaveRamsey.com Accessed 19 Feb 2021.