How to forgive yourself and move on…
Self forgiveness is a difficult topic to navigate. Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves, anyway? We wonder, “How do I forgive myself for hurting someone?” or “How do I forgive myself for making a bad decision or past mistakes.”
This article addresses all those questions and more. Including, “What does forgiving yourself mean according to the Bible?”. As well as, why self forgiveness is important. Learn exactly how to forgive yourself and move on today!
What if I can’t forgive myself?
First, whenever I hear the words, “I can’t forgive myself”, a red flag goes up… you won’t forgive yourself as long as you believe you can’t. In other words, our beliefs influence our thoughts, emotions and actions. The best way to change our mindset about self forgiveness is to better understand what the Bible says on the topic. Hang on, we are about to get to that .
Second, if you don’t choose self forgiveness you will likely have thoughts of regret and self hatred (which can lead to depression). In other words, you’re beating yourself up over past mistakes. Do you have a tendency to replay past events in your mind like a merry go round – over and over? …only to be flooded with regret and shame? (More on the course, “Taking Thoughts Captive” here.)
Why is self forgiveness important?
Without self forgiveness you will continue to play the tape of what you said or did, which will compound feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, regret, etc.
Benefits of forgiving yourself include a happier and healthier life. Your energy will no longer be drained by thoughts of the past. Best of all – you will experience the freedom God intended and purposed for your life.
“If the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8:36
What does forgiving yourself mean? (according to the Bible)
The first step to forgiving yourself requires an accurate view of yourself and an accurate view of God. The best way to clear our view is with looking at what the Bible says about self forgiveness.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
This means, in his abundant love for each of us, he sent Christ to die for us, so we would be forgiven and saved. God never intended for us to get it all right. In fact He knew we wouldn’t get it right, (insert Christ). Perfection is not a requirement. We weren’t forgiven based on getting things right. We are forgiven based on Christ alone. If God forgives you, why do you struggle with forgiving yourself?
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” -1 John 2:2
If Christ’s death on the cross can cover the sin of the entire world, why can’t you forgive yourself for past mistakes and bad decisions?
We (mankind) tend to put sin on different levels. A small white light isn’t as bad as constantly lying, right? In God’s economy sin is sin (James 2:10). Either you sin or you don’t (we all sin).
Any sin is the thing that separates us from God. Christ bridges the gap between us and God. Furthermore, God sent Christ, because He wants you (no gap)…Because He has immense love for you.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” -Romans 8:1-2.
Once in Christ, we are set free from the power of sin. If God says there is no condemnation, why would we disagree with the Ruler of the world by engaging in self condemnation. In other words, we’re saying Jesus Christ is not enough. Do you believe your regrets are bigger than the grace and salvation God has provided? When you can’t forgive yourself, you are saying your past mistakes and bad decisions are too much for the Creator of the world.
“… for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23
This is really good news. Nobody is perfect according to God. In other words, my past mistakes or bad decisions do not take God by surprise. He is not in heaven with jaw dropped, wringing His hands, wondering what to do when I mess up.
“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
This is the first step to forgiving yourself and moving on… confession. Pour out everything to the One who is faithful to forgive you. And, if He can forgive you – you can forgive yourself!
Why? Because his grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9).
“Their sin and lawless acts I will remember no more.” -Hebrews 10:17
God has forgiven and forgotten. Yet, here we are, dwelling on the past (more on that here) and stubbornly refusing to forgive ourselves and move on.
Based on scripture, I picture it like this… I’m still thinking and talking about a past mistake or bad decision and God is looking at me with a perplexed face. Then He asks – what are you talking about?
In short, He has already forgiven and forgotten and I’m stuck. Stuck beating myself up, swallowed by guilt and shame. Meanwhile in heaven, I’ve been forgiven, all is forgotten and there’s no condemnation from my perfect heavenly Father. If He’s moved on, shouldn’t I?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28
This is one my favorite promises – all things are used for our good and God’s glory. Even when bad decisions are made or past mistakes – it will have a purpose, for our benefit. What an incredible gift, to take my ashes and turn it into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3).
All these scriptures indicate that we aren’t perfect and all fall short of the glory of God. In all His wisdom, God provided forgiveness of sin, past mistakes and bad decisions through Jesus taking the burden of our mishaps. Yet, it doesn’t end there. He is faithful to forgive and even use all things for our good, turning ashes into beauty.
Does knowing who you are and who God is, help with forgiving yourself and moving on?
Why is it so hard to forgive yourself?
We just covered major points about forgiving yourself according to the Bible. God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17). Our thoughts and beliefs commonly veer away from the truth. It’s the Bible that gives us a plumb line for truth – testing the inaccuracies of our beliefs and thoughts.
So, why is it so hard to forgive ourselves if God clearly forgives us?
Unbelief. Believing we are forgiven bridges the gap between knowing about forgiveness and living in the freedom of forgiveness.
Are you having a hard time believing who God says He is and who He says you are?
What to do when you can’t forgive yourself.
In order to live in the freedom of self forgiveness it is vital to spend time with God – renewing your mind and praying.
Renewing your mind with the Word of God is literally cleaning the lens you view everything with. How you perceive God, the world around you and yourself is influenced by what goes into your mind. What Influences you… the world or the Word?
Second, prayer is powerful (James 5:16). Prayer can change your heart and help you with unbelief (Mark 9:24). If you’re gonna disagree with God about your forgiven status – take it up with Him directly in prayer.
FAQ’s – How to forgive yourself and move on.
How to forgive yourself for hurting someone.
First things first – confession. Speak directly with the person you hurt. Begin by naming the offense, the damage done, as well as the regret. Then – say you’re sorry. This conversation needs to happen with God as well (1 John 1:9).
Second, do a new thing, also known as repenting. Repenting is turning away from the mistake or bad decision and trying to do better next time.
Third, do some self reflecting. The best part about past mistakes and bad decisions, is learning and growing. Examine the motives of your heart prayerfully with God.
Finally, while your prayerfully coming to God, pray Bible verses that highlight you are forgiven. This helps us put our minds on truth rather than self loathing. Self loathing is unproductive and not part of God’s purpose for you.
How to forgive yourself for something “terrible”.
Often, people believe their regret involves something “terrible”. I want to reiterate something discussed earlier in this article. We (mankind) tend to put sin on different levels. A small mistake versus a big mistake. In God’s economy, sin is sin (James 2:10). Either you sin or you don’t. Any sin and (we all sin) is the thing that separates us from God. Christ bridges that gap made by sin. Furthermore God-sent Christ because He wants you close (no gap). Because He loves you.
Be careful not take not to categorize past mistakes or bad decisions as terrible or not so bad.
I can’t forgive myself.
The moment we loop on “I can’t”, we won’t. A case of the” I can’ts” keep us immobilized in unforgiveness.
Do you really want to forgive yourself and move on?
Know that you can forgive yourself and move on. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is doable.
“I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” -Philippians 4:13
Make this Bible verse your new self forgiveness mantra! Renew your mind with it. Believe God’s purpose for you to live in the freedom of self forgiveness.
ractice believing God’s words over your own inaccurate thoughts. (Learn how to take every thought captive with this online course.)
How to forgive yourself for a bad decision.
This goes back to identifying you’re not perfect. Wherever you are, you’re in good company – nobody’s perfect. We have all made bad decisions. An entire decade of my life was a series of bad decisions!
Lay it at the foot of the cross. Learn from the mistakes and do something different. Praise and thank God for His forgiveness and His promise to turn your ashes into beauty (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Remember – God saves us right where we are, but doesn’t leave us there.
Biblical counseling and forgiving yourself…
If you still find yourself struggling to forgive yourself, biblical counsel maybe what gets you moving forward. Biblical counseling can help with processing the inaccurate beliefs and thoughts that are driving deep regret and guilt. Learn how to take every thought captive with strategies to challenge problematic thoughts. Biblical counseling can get you on the path toward forgiving yourself and living in the freedom God has purposed for you! Make an appointment for online Christian counseling here.
Wrapping up how to forgive yourself and move on…
While self forgiveness is a difficult topic, there are many benefits of forgiving yourself… Including freedom from self condemnation, guilt and regret. Learn how to forgive yourself and move on by renewing your mind with the truth of God’s Word. Let go of bad decisions and past mistakes. And begin living in the freedom of self forgiveness that God has purposed for you.