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Lesson 3: Forgiving Yourself

As we pursue lifelong healing, our goal is to remove any unhealthy behaviors that interfere with our ability to create relationship with God and others. For many of us who struggle with love, sex, and relationship addictions, this can be especially challenging when it comes to forgiveness—not in our ability to forgive others, but in our ability to forgive ourselves.

Many people think I’m an amazing person. They tell me so. I overhear people say that I am caring, giving, and self-sacrificing. At work, I go above and beyond my job responsibilities, helping wherever there is a need. At church, I help with the children’s program, sing in the choir, and volunteer in the kitchen for every social event and potluck.

In my neighborhood, I keep an eye on all my neighbors, taking in trash cans, putting the neighbor’s dog back behind the fence when she digs out, and watching the neighbors’ homes when they are on vacation. I attend two Bible studies each week. I volunteer at the local hospital. I help with the quarterly bake sale at the women’s shelter. I am always busy doing something for someone.

Here’s what most people don’t know about me: at 16 years old I was pregnant and at 17, I was living out of my car with my baby and the state eventually took my baby away. Desperate for love, I married the first guy who showed the slightest interest in me. My husband was an alcoholic and drug addict. He beat me on a regular basis, which didn’t stop when I was pregnant, and continually threatened to leave me. At times, even when my face was bleeding from the abuse, I begged him to stay.

I finally left him when his physical abuse threatened the safety of my son. I was married and divorced two more times before my son turned 18 years old, unknowingly choosing the same type of guy each time: handsome, charming, and attentive until we got married. After each marriage, my husbands became distant and uninterested. When I questioned their behavior, they were abusive and eventually left me. At one point, newly pregnant and about to be divorced again, I had an abortion.

My son blames me for his horrible childhood and left home when he turned 18. We haven’t spoken in years

One evening a few years ago, when feeling lonely, depressed, and suicidal, I was wandering around the city streets contemplating my death. Inadvertently, I ended up at a local church, received the help I needed, and dedicated my life to the Lord. That night, God had a different plan for my life.

I continue to work toward health, but struggle with incredible guilt and shame. I know God has forgiven me, but I cannot seem to forgive myself.

Patricia

While there are no specific scriptures that address self-forgiveness, there are many verses about forgiveness that can be applied to our healing process.147

  • God loves all of us and will forgive our sins. He doesn’t only forgive His favorite children (Acts 10:34). He forgives all of us.
  • When God forgives us, He does not remember our sin any longer—He is not going to hold it over us or use our sin against us (Jeremiah 31:34).
  • In Christ we are redeemed. We are forgiven. He lavishes upon us the richness of His grace (Ephesians 1:7-8).

For several weeks, we have dug into our past—unpacked our trauma—and exposed our wounds. We have revealed the depth of our brokenness. We have said things out loud that we intended to take with us to the grave. We have chosen this process because we long for healing. We want to experience true relationship. We want to be free.

The truth is: we are free. Christ gave us our freedom when He died for us on the cross. We are forgiven by the only One who can pardon us—set free by the One who holds the key.

Why do we struggle with forgiving ourselves when our debt has already been paid? What makes our sin so unique that Jesus’ death on the cross cannot cover it? Why can we not accept God’s forgiveness?

The enemy of our soul wants us to remain captive, paralyzed by our feelings of fear and worthlessness. We live as though we are still behind bars, hiding in the dark, suffering in isolation, but the door of our cell is open. We can leave anytime we want. We can have relationship with God and others. We can experience life. What is holding us back?

As you contemplate this question, use the following scripture to expand your understanding of forgiveness.

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. 5Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. PSALM 32:3-5

The torment of David’s sin and guilt is evident in Psalm 32. His sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband weighed heavy on his heart. He recognized how his sin and guilt were affecting him mentally, physically, and spiritually. However, when David confessed his sin and stopped trying to hide his guilt, God forgave him! The weight of his sin and guilt was gone.

This act of confession required that David, too, needed to forgive himself so that he could step back into relationship with God. Despite David’s sin, God refers to him as “a man after my own heart.”1

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,… ACTS 3:19

WHERE WE WANT TO GO

As we continue to pursue healing, we develop a sense of hope—the hope that our future could look drastically different from our past. We begin to imagine what our life might look like and what our relationships might look like. We consider new goals. We envision our life with meaning and purpose.

“When we deny our story, it defines us.
When we own our story, we get to write a brave new ending.149
BRENÉ BROWN

When we own our story—when we can stand in it unashamed—it’s transformative. We are learning what it means to live in freedom, no longer held captive by our guilt and shame. Through our personal promises and experience with God and others, we are changing our thoughts and feelings. We are renewing our mind. Our desire for authentic relationship with God and others has become the driving force of our healing. The anticipation of a brighter future gives us the courage to write a brave new ending to our story.

What does your brave new ending look like? What goals do you have for the future? In what ways have you developed a new sense of purpose? How do you want to use your healing to help others? Where do you want to go from here?

Looking Ahead

Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.

Assignments