Moving Forward through Self-Forgiveness

No one I know answers the question, "How's it going?" with "Oh man, I failed BIG time this week." We often feel embarrassment, and even shame, about our failures. So instead of being honest, we just smile and say "good!" But everything isn't all good all the time, and we know it.

Whether it's a minor error in our work, a harsh word said to a friend, or an affair on our spouse, we will regularly come face to face with the challenges of our sin condition. We won't always resist temptation. We won't always act according to the Spirit. God willing, we will grow stronger and become more resistant to the desires of our flesh, but there will always be things that we do or do not do that will cause us to feel God's conviction through the feeling of guilt.

Photo by  Andreas Levers  / CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo by Andreas Levers / CC BY-NC 2.0

Handling Guilt

Guilt doesn't "feel" nice. Some people feel it all the time, even when they've done nothing wrong. Others never feel guilty, even when they've done something wrong. In either of those cases, the emotion of guilt has been twisted into something that is unhealthy for us spiritually and emotionally.

Guilt is a gift from God to tell us that something is wrong. It should move us to action.

When guilt becomes a feeling that we dwell on, without ever doing something about it, we either carry that guilt around with us always or we subconsciously push it down inside of us where we can try to ignore it.

Dealing with our guilt has three parts:

1. Confess our sin to God and accept His forgiveness

2. Make amends to the person we hurt by offering a sincere apology and righting any wrongs

3. Forgive ourselves

Choosing Self-Forgiveness

Many people miss this last step. They mistakenly think that God has not forgiven them because they still feel the guilt. But the truth is, God has fully forgiven; the guilt lingers when we do not forgive ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves for failing releases us from feeling like a failure. God already forgave you when Jesus died on the cross. All you need to do to feel forgiven is forgive yourself!

It's like God is standing in front of us with a birthday present and cake in His hands, holding them out towards us and we're standing there looking down at our feet feeling bad for ourselves because no one showed up for our party. We get so stuck in our own little pity party that we forget how great our God is! There is nothing we aren't forgiven for and nothing He won't redeem!

The Gift of Redemption

Guilt is a gift because it urges us to make things right. The beauty of forgiveness is in its power to redeem and restore that which we broke. God can, and will, redeem any sin, mistake, or failure we make when we sincerely come to Him with a repentant heart.

Guilt is an emotion that wells up within us when we've done something wrong. We cannot control the emotion. What we can control is the resulting feeling we experience. We can choose to feel defeated or we can choose to feel hope. God's redemptive nature gives us reason to choose hope.