Saturday, March 22, 2014

Forgiving Oneself

If you have not already done so, I highly recommend that you read my post about forgiving others and possessing a forgiving spirit before you read this one.

There are some who have no trouble forgiving themselves but struggle greatly with forgiving others. Then there are other persons, like I, who struggle more with forgiving oneself than anyone else. Perhaps you hold very high standards for yourself, trying greatly to be perfect, so then when you fall short of your standards, you figuratively beat yourself, and beat yourself, and beat yourself some more, and all that mental beating can truly harm your physical health, in addition to your spiritual health.  

If we do not forgive ourselves of a transgression, then we will either simply hate ourselves for it for the remainder of our lives, or we may even continue in the sinful practice in order to pretend like it's not bad in order that we don't hurt terribly from the guilt the transgression invoked.  In either case, without confessing the sin, repenting of it, and forgiving ourselves in the belief that God has forgiven us, we will not be able to move on to bring forth good fruit.  We not only hinder ourselves when we do this, but we also will go on hindering others when we choose to walk in unforgiveness toward ourselves.

Sometimes we may think our sin is so great and awful that we don't deserve forgiveness from God, and so then we don't forgive ourselves.  But is there any sin too great for God's forgiveness, except the one from which is not repented?

Let's examine some men and women from the scriptures and ask ouselves whether we think they forgave themselves of their sinful actions:

*Adam and Eve: Whose burden is more difficult to bear than theirs?  They passed on a sinful inheritance to us all.  Would they forgive themselves, though?  I know I forgive them, if they truly felt/would feel bad.  Would any of us have done any better in their positions?

*Abraham and Sarah: What about their agreement for Abraham to take Hagar to bed to have a child with her?  Wow, they must have really regretted that!  From what evidence we have, they greatly did, although I know Abraham loved his son Ishmael, of course.

*Samson: What foolish decisions he made!  As physically strong as he was, he certainly was weak with lust as to give his secret away to a woman who had already shown two or three times that she could not be trusted. Did he forgive himself?

*King David: We know he greatly regretted his murder and adultery (and therefore also blasphemy, as he was the king of the greatest nation and represented the nation of God).  Since he believed God forgave him, surely he forgave himself.  I know he also loved his son Solomon who came from the wife (Bathsheba) with whom he'd committed adultery beforehand.

*King Solomon:  There is great evidence that he must have repented from his great idolatries, fornications, revelings, etc. at the end of his life.  If he believed God is forgiving and forgave him, surely he could forgive himself.  

*Manasseh: It's imperative that you read of Manasseh the king of Judah in order to fully understand or refresh your memory of the extent of evil this man lived out and with which he led the nation of Judah.  He was guilty of much extreme evil, including causing his own son to pass through the fire in child sacrifice.  But then read about how he was punished, humbled, and how he turned himself around and ordered the nation to serve God.  Surely he would have had to forgive himself if he was able to move on and bring forth any good fruit (See 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chron. 33:1-20 and also the extra-biblical Prayer of Manasseh).

*Saul/Paul of Tarsus:  This man dragged early Christians to their brutal deaths, and he purported to do it all in the name of God.  He thought he was acting for God and that the Christians were blasphemers. He murdered true practicing believers, the very begotten children of God the Father and brethren of the Lord Salvation (Jesus Christ).  Later, after his repentance and living out life as a faithful Christian himself, he referred to himself as the "chief of sinners" (see 1 Tim. 1:15). His story can be read in the book of Acts.

We've all done wicked acts with which we struggle to live, at which we look back and think, "How could I have done that," or "How could I have allowed that to happen?"  Yes, it's true that some carry out worse things than others, but as I explained in my last post, some have inherited worse sin tendencies with which to begin.  This doesn't in any way excuse any sin, but a person thinking back on things might realize that he or she very likely would not have engaged in that sin if he or she would have been able to be steered down a better path in early life.

Even if given a good early life path, some will go the wrong way for a time for whatever reason, and there is still forgiveness available.  Think again of Manasseh, king of Judah.  His father Hezekiah was a righteous man and one of the best kings to ever reign over Judah (though, like us all, he did stumble and make some mistakes).  His faithful-to-God father died when Manasseh was only twelve, as God had promised fifteen years earlier that he would extend Hezekiah's life when he was gravely ill.  This may have been a starting point for Manasseh to go in the wrong direction.  He may have greatly questioned God for taking his righteous father who was so devoted to God, when he was only in his fifties, leaving a twelve-year-old son behind.

Many have fallen away after losing a loved one.  If this is you, it's not too late to turn back to God. He wants to use the bad things in our lives to refine us and to help others.  After I lost my infant son before he turned a month old, I was later able to help comfort another woman who lost her infant daughter.  She struggled greatly with her faith and was very distraught, because she had sons, but that was her only daughter, which she'd wanted badly.  God used me to greatly help her through her grief.  It also led me to research genetics, epigenetics, and environmental toxins and write and publish a book to help others.  My faith was made greater in the long run.  It wasn't so for my husband.  He cursed God after our son's death and has struggled ever since.

One of my favorite chapters in the scriptures is Ezekiel 18.  God pleads and pleads for people to repent.  He loves his creation of man.  He wants each to become his child.  We are each unique in our own way, and He's got forgiveness available for each of us. He said He doesn't take any pleasure in the death of the wicked.  If you are a parent, think of the way you plead with your child when he is being contrary.  Above all you just wish your child would obey, because you do not want to punish him.  You do not take pleasure in doing so.  Also think of the most wretched thing(s) your child(ren) has done.  It may be something that is very literally abominable to you, and yet you still find that you love your child dearly.  You still see the good in your child and just want your child to turn away from his wickedness so that you can lavish upon him all the good things you have in store for him.

Whenever you are are wallowing in your torment, hating yourself and wishing death upon yourself, think of how you view your children (if you're a parent).  Then realize that is how your Father in heaven views you.  He wants to forgive you.  Just believe that He will forgive you, and then move on.  Repent, turn from the sin.  Try your very best to do what is right.  Use whatever you can from the evil you did for good.  That may be going on to prevent others from going on that path or counseling others who have gone down that path.  Whatever it is, you will be shown what to do, if you allow Father God to show you.  Whatever we experience in life, whether it is sin or anything else, we are expected to use it to be fruitful in some way.

You must forgive yourself by seeing yourself the way your Holy Father sees you.  He sees you as His child that he dearly loves, no matter what wretched thing you've done or have been doing.  It doesn't matter how vile or violent or vicious it was.  He blessed David, He freed Manasseh, and he called Paul.  If He is willing to forgive those wretches, He is willing to forgive you, and so you should forgive yourself.  You must if you are to go on to bear good fruit in life.  This is God's will for you.

What happens if you do not forgive yourself?  You will either commit suicide, like King Saul of Israel or Judas Iscariot, both recorded in the scriptures; or you will poison your health with your torment. Your self-hatred, rebellious justification, guilt, and/or other emotional actions will affect your physical health, in addition to your spiritual health.  When the scriptures talk about "rottenness in the bones" and "a sick heart" and other such things, it's referring to the physical maladies that can result from spiritual emotions, whether it is heartbreak due to a loss or another's sin or whether it is self-inflicted because of one's own evil deeds.  Bitterness, guilt, self-hatred, no grace toward ourselves...these are no way to live our lives.

I recently read the sad story of Genie, a badly-abused child who was born in the 1950s, as part of my sociology course work for college.  Her abusive father ended up committing suicide.  It was his escape.  This is not good!  That is the end. There is no time to confess, repent, and then bring forth good fruit.  You just end your life on bad terms.  Does this make anything better?  It's easy to hate Genie's father, because most of us cannot imagine a human being doing all that he did to his child, regardless of his background.  He was still a responsible adult who should have admitted he had a problem and sought help.  Quite likely he would not have easily found forgiveness from fellow human beings, and perhaps someone reading this feels the same way.  Perhaps you've done something that indeed most people would not be willing to forgive.  But God is not that way.  I can assure you that God wants to forgive you and help you overcome and walk the rest of your life in holiness with His help. 

I've learned that seldom anything turns out the perfect way we have envisioned.  We want to be perfect.  We want our spouses and our children and our friends to be perfect.  We want our house to be perfect, our yard to be perfect.  We want our vacation to be perfect.  We want our visit with friends to be perfect.  We want our grocery store trips to be perfect. We want things to be perfect, but they won't ever be what we want them to be, perfectly.  We can properly work for perfection in all things, but when we fail, the only way we're going to be able to go on in contentment is if we seek the Only One who is perfect.  The more we want things to be perfect, the more it can hurt when we see that it doesn't end up that way.  It can so easily lead to self-hatred and unforgiveness toward ourselves when we want to be perfect and are not.  If we hate ourselves, then we're not going to be doing the best we can to serve others in this world.  If, on the other hand, we attempt to make ourselves feel better by continuing on in the wicked ways and justifying it, we are still not going to be doing the best to serve others, and we're only killing ourselves, albeit in a different way.

If you want that perfection, then be perfect in Him.  Forgive yourself, as He wants to forgive you, and then walk as best as you can as Christ, the Beloved Firstborn, walked.  You won't do it while dead, and you won't do it while hating yourself or justifying yourself.  You'll only do it if you forgive yourself.

Prayer of Manasseh:

O Lord, Almighty God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed; who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof; who hast bound the sea by the word of thy commandment; who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by thy terrible and glorious name; whom all men fear, and tremble before thy power; for the majesty of thy glory cannot be borne, and thine angry threatening toward sinners is importable: but thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; for thou art the most high Lord, of great compassion, longsuffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee: and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, as to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee; but thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied: my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquities. I am bowed down with many iron bands, that I cannot life up mine head, neither have any release: for I have provoked thy wrath, and done evil before thee: I did not thy will, neither kept I thy commandments: I have set up abominations, and have multiplied offences. Now therefore I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: wherefore, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquites. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me to the lower parts of the earth. For thou art the God, even the God of them that repent; and in me thou wilt shew all thy goodness: for thou wilt save me, that am unworthy, according to thy great mercy. Therefore I will praise thee for ever all the days of my life: for all the powers of the heavens do praise thee, and thine is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (King James version)

Prayer of David:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you shall make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which you have broken may rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence; and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with your free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors your ways; and sinners shall be converted to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open you my lips; and my mouth shall show forth your praise. For you desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: you delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good in your good pleasure to Zion: build you the walls of Jerusalem. Then shall you be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks on your altar  (Psalm 51, American KJV).