My heart broke when it happened! I had hurt my dad in a significant way. I saw it in the water gathering just around the rim of his warm eyelids. His heart had just experienced disappointment at the end of his smug teenager's tongue.
Immediately his response came, yet not what I had expected. He said, "Son, I forgive you.”
What? You forgive me? Come on, Dad! You need to be mad! I was disrespectful; I deserve much worse than those three words. Give me some punishment! I will feel better!
No, his only response was, "I forgive you."
The problem was I couldn’t forgive myself. I could not believe I was capable of being so mean, so self-centered. I wanted my dad to feel better but not at the expense of me having to feel bad about myself.
I know it's hard to wrestle with restoration in yourself especially when you’ve been the cause of someone else’s wound. I do not want to be harsh or oversimplify the long hard road to recovery and restoration. But I do think it’s good for us to gain a gospel-centered approach to being restored.
There are several issues in self-forgiveness, and there is no "cookie cutter" approach. Every wound a person receives from their failures brings its nuances and unique challenges. But there are two realities common to all shame that we feel or inherit and those are the truth of God's word (I'm forgiven) and the struggle of belief.
What God says about me is truer than what I say about myself (I'm shameful and deserve nothing.) Both of these realities are true; God has forgiven, and I don't deserve it. We know God is not confused in His estimation of us, and we can be assured we are most certainly confused in the estimation of ourselves. So the problem lies in my understanding of God's forgiveness (I know I have a gift for the obvious!) This is an important point though because at the root of this is the first step into knowing real grace and experiencing forgiveness.
Are we addressing the wrong question? Instead of asking, "Can I forgive myself?", maybe the better question is this: Why am I having a hard time believing Jesus and His declaration of my freedom? Let's explore 5 important points in answering this question:
1) I don't have the ability to forgive me, therefore, it is not dependent on me to forgive. Forgiveness must come from the offended.
2) I don't deserve forgiveness! In my heart, I know this; however, I guard my head against the reality of it by accepting my disability as my identity. In other words, it is better to live with the idol of self-imposed shame rather than to believe the offended. God, the only one with the right to be offended has by grace alone forgiven me of being an offender.
3) Because I don't deserve forgiveness, there must be One who knows no shame and has no need for forgiveness to receive my shame as their own. If that One is willing to take my shame as their own, then they have removed all of it from me. In the case of Jesus, He is the shameless one who takes my shame and does away with it. However, it is more than just transporting my guilt away to another place. He became my shame!
4) Self-forgiveness is not the point; the point is the idolatry of unbelief. It is easier to believe I'm too wounded to forgive myself than to insult my pride and believe someone of innocence became my sinfulness and took it away.
5) Christ does not merely stand in my place before the Father; we stand with Christ in Him before the Father. Thereby our presence is always with God as justified not standing beside Christ but standing in Christ! This is the first step in experiencing our freedom from shame. We do not stand apart from the work of Jesus; we stand in the work of Jesus!
Matthew 26: 34
“I tell you the very truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night , before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” NIV
Grace my friend,
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.