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!

Self Forgiveness how to

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.

40 Comments

  1. Michelle on March 11, 2019 at 9:59 am

    This is such a wonderful post. I struggle with forgiveness, but this has been so helpful!

    • Sunshyne on March 13, 2019 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Michelle, Thank you for taking the time to comment. Forgiveness is a tough topic that we all have to journey through…whether it’s self forgiveness or forgiving others. I’m glad the article was helpful!

      • LInda on July 3, 2019 at 11:19 am

        Our women’s bible study is currently doing a study on forgiveness. The author of our study stated that “forgiving yourself” “sounds like great advice, but it’s a jail cell with no water. This myth is a dangerous lie because it looks for healing in the last place we should look for it: ourselves. It assumes that God extends 80% of the forgiveness and it’s up to you to muster up the other 20%.” The author goes on to say that we receive God’s complete forgiveness. Sometimes we do not feel worthy of forgiveness, but that is what God’s grace is all about.
        “Forgive yourself” is equivalent to telling a dying person, “Heal yourself”. Like medicine, forgiveness comes from outside of us – from God, our healer”.
        Donna Pyle is the author of our study. She states that we cannot forgive ourselves, that is God’s job.
        I think there is a difference between our regret for having done something, and not letting it go, and our ability to forgive our self.

        • Sunshyne on July 3, 2019 at 12:00 pm

          Hi Linda, Your bible study sounds right on track! Thank you for sharing it for others seeking to forgive themselves. It is really a matter of knowing what God says (i.e. your forgiven) and then believing the truth of God’s Word in order to bridge the gap between knowing we’re forgiven and believing we’re forgiven. Certainly challenging, but all things are possible with God!

          • Angela on March 22, 2020 at 6:38 pm

            I am currently going through a roller coasters of emotions from guilt to loathing myself from regrets to grief, from grief to hopelessness and it keeps going in loops and not stopping. I know God has forgiven me but I cannot forgive myself for what I have done and said to someone. Even when the person has forgiven me, I still cannot forgive myself. The person who forgives frees himself from bitterness but the forgiven person, that’s me do not necessary receive much relief especially when I am the one who caused the breakdown of a relationship. The person who has forgiven me does not have to move on with the me, but I, after being forgiven still hope for a second chance to move on together. But when the chance of that is not looking good, forgiving myself seems impossible. To me forgiving myself means I will have to tell myself that what I had done was bad but it’s ok that I am not perfect, so I’ll just learn from it, forget about it and move on. I Well, I find that hard to do at the moment. Maybe I am lacking faith?
            Sorry, the point I am making is if we are able to forgive ourselves as God forgives us, then we don’t need Him. God blots out his memories of our sins, but I don’t believe we can. That’s why only with God all things are possible because he remembers our sins no more but with us human we still hang on to remnants of guilt, regrets, sadness, fear etc emotions that hold us back from believing we can achieve the impossible, even after we have been forgiven by Him. I dont think that having those feelings is necessary a bad thing because when we think we can’t, that’s when we need to have faith. Scripture says it’s impossible to please God without faith. We are still imperfect even after we have been forgiven because we still live in the flesh. It’s only in God’s eyes that we are perfect. While we live in the flesh we will still struggle with pain, grief, sorrow, fear etc but since God does not see us as imperfect, he sees our sorrow as happiness, our pain as joy, our fear as courage etc. We dont see these ourselves and since faith is believing and hopeful in things aren’t seen, it’s the basic requirement to please God. Faith will unleash joy into a sad situation, boldness in a fearful situation, relief in a painful situation because faith is about believing how God sees us and then strife to attain that perfection as much as we can. The more faith we have, the closer we are to become as perfect as Jesus while on this earth.
            Sorry for my grammar…English is not my first language but I hope I get my point across. Thank you for reading.



      • Tanya on July 26, 2020 at 4:38 pm

        It’s hard to forgive one’s self when others refuse to forgive you. I was a single mom trying to raise my family in my flesh before I came to Christ. I have been walking with the LORD for 20+ years and am not the person I once was. My daughter, who is a pastor’s wife, has a deep root of bitterness. I pray for her; but, she is poisoning the minds of my grandchildren, she stirs up animosity against me with her siblings and my church family. I know God sees and He cares. I have to find forgiveness daily towards she and her husband so that my heart doesn’t grow hard toward them. Prayers are appreciated!

  2. Beth on March 11, 2019 at 11:15 am

    You did a very thorough and biblical job on covering this difficult and often confusing topic, Sunshyne! I do think there are so many people who don’t stop to think about the need for this. They forgive others but really never forgive themselves for mistakes they’ve made or sins they’ve committed. But there is such freedom in the forgiveness we extend to ourselves, ultimately from Christ and His forgiveness of us. If He forgives us, then we are actually being prideful to think we can never forgive ourselves! Thanks for this encouraging word, my friend! I’ll be pinning and tweeting!

    • Sunshyne on March 13, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you Beth, for your encouraging words and sharing the article!

  3. Kaci on March 13, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    This is amazing, I’ve struggled with this for a very long time and feel like this is exactly what I needed.

    • Sunshyne on March 15, 2019 at 2:22 pm

      Hi Kaci! Thank you for sharing. Self forgiveness can often be harder than forgiving others…I’m so glad the article was helpful. Praying for you as you embrace the forgiveness God has and take it in for yourself!

  4. Dominique on March 21, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Great Article; I needed to hear this today! I guess I have some work to do, Not just for myself but also forgiving others as well.

    • Sunshyne on March 21, 2019 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you for sharing, Dominique! Praying for you as you walk in God’s best for you:)

  5. Antonella on April 7, 2019 at 3:31 am

    “Unbelief. Believing we are forgiven ”
    This is where I’m at.
    When the person you want forgiveness from is no longer here and hoping and praying for God’s forgiveness.
    You have explained it beautifully. Thankyou.
    I needed this sooo badly.

    Antonella

    • Sunshyne on April 7, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      Thank you for sharing Antonella! Praying for you as you take hold of the forgiveness that is already yours!

  6. alexandra on April 23, 2019 at 5:41 am

    I cannot confess my sin to the person who I sinned against because the sin was 8 years ago and our friendship is thriving now. I have not since sinned this way toward this person. I was wondering what to do from here. Please help. I have asked God for forgiveness but I can’t help but feel guilty because she does not need to know this offense. She is okay and this did not do detriments to her life but I cannot forgive myself. Please help me.

    • Sunshyne on April 25, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Alexandra, this is a tough situation. I wonder if you confessed it to her, you would feel the power the offense still seems to hold presently. I don’t think this has a simple yes or no answer…but I’m praying for you as you navigate a difficult choice.

  7. […] Struggling to Forgive Yourself? (More on that here) […]

  8. Janae on August 9, 2019 at 3:49 am

    Thank you for this.im trying to figure out how to make this work for me. I’ve been beating myself up for saying something unkind about a friend… and she knows😭I have a lot of self loathing and can’t get “over” it. I’ve apologized to her and I’m thankful she’s told me to let it go. But it’s so hard for me to forgive myself. I feel I e ruined my whole life. I love these people dearly and I don’t know why I even let myself do this. It was such a stupid thing to do. Please pray for me.

    • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:14 am

      Hi Janae, You made a statement that caught my attention… “I feel I’ve ruined my whole life.” I would prayerfully start there. What is it about this particular mistake that has the power to ruin your whole life? Process through that question and it might help you more readily forgive yourself once you understand the thoughts that are stumbling you. Praying for you now:)

      • Robert on December 28, 2020 at 9:23 pm

        Thank you so much. I have asked my sister to forgive me but she doesn’t. I belives the Lord forgives me. It hard to forgive myself because when I tell my sister that I am sorry and I really meant it but she always that I don’t mean it. What do I do?

  9. TC on August 12, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Time heals all wounds.
    It is hard for some of us to forgive ourselves, but it is do-able.
    I have had this same problem for many years.
    I think that devotion to God’s word and renewing our minds and getting a right and good mind set is part of the healing. It is terribly hard especially if there are others around you that will never forgive you and accept you, but I believe God can do anything. He can change me and help me change my own mind-set about myself and He can change others and even the dynamics surrounding your entire life. Believing and trusting that whatever happens is in His hands is the key. Life may not always go the way we would like, but it does continue to move on regardless, and we should too. One step at a time and do as many good things in your life as possible. I think it does a heart good to help others and lifts our spirit and maybe even keep us from so much self loathing when we pour our lives out for others. Forgetting so much about ourselves and helping others.
    I may not be right about all this but hopefully I’m on the track – a better one than before.

    • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:16 am

      Hi TC, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My favorite thing you mentioned…Renewing our minds. I think that is the most powerful thing we can do above all else. Praying for you friend!

  10. Savanna Briones on September 30, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    My name is Savanna and I’ve been struggling to forgive myself for a long time now and my depression came back again it’s getting worse, but reading this really changed my mind a lot, it’s actually really helping me. I’m so tired of being sad and hating myself and I did apologize to my loved ones and they forgive me but it was really hard to forgive myself. Thank you so much for this article it’s just what I was looking for thank you so much you don’t understand how much this means a lot to me 🙂 thank you once more.

    • Sunshyne on October 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm

      Savanna:) I’m so glad to hear the Truth about forgiveness is helping you to move forward in receiving the God given freedom you have as a child of God! I’ll be praying for you!

  11. Julie on October 3, 2019 at 7:36 am

    I am having a really hard time forgiving myself because my husband has not forgiven me. I won’t be able to do this until I know he has. I feel horrible for what I’ve done to him and feel like I shouldn’t forgive myself because he hasn’t.

    • Sunshyne on October 4, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      Julie, certainly, your husband’s refusal to forgive you makes it much more challenging to move forward in forgiving yourself. But, don’t allow your husband’s difficulty working through forgiveness as a way to keep yourself stuck in the past (Isaiah 43:18). I would even challenge his line of thinking by making the choice to live in the freedom God offers you in forgiveness. Praying for you.

  12. Amy on October 16, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I recently had a very close friend (10 year friendship) tell me that she is embarassed of me at times (2 times this year) and it affects her other relationships with her other friends because they say stuff about me (this is after we’ve been in social settings that involve alcohol at times). She stated she is starting to resent me when we go in public. It is very odd to me since she has done the same stuff I’ve done. I’m so deeply hurt to the core, feel shameful, feel guilt, feel like I’m not good enough, that I don’t matter, grief, and am very sad. She knows I’ve had a very challenging year personally with my family, and I’m not exactly sure what I did that has embarassed her so much. I have apologized and asked for forgiveness profusely.

    Her other friends opinions of me (wrong or right) have changed her attitude towards me. She forgets about the thousands of other times we’ve done stuff together and had a great time. She also stated there are so many things she loves about me and wants us to always be close, which is encouraging.

  13. April on December 11, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    This has helped me so much! Thank you for this article. I’ve spent so much time beating myself up over the past. I kept feeling as if God just “couldn’t possibly forgive me, maybe others, but not ME.” Thank you, thank you, thank you! God bless!

  14. Shaye on January 21, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I can forgive myself because i know God has forgiven me. However, because of my disobedience, I am having to live and deal with the consequences of my disobedience. It is a hurtful place to be and does not seem to be a way out unless God intervenes. So, even though I can forgive myself I don’t know how to be happy in this pain I find myself in.

  15. Tosin Moji on February 22, 2020 at 5:10 am

    Wow! I’ve been looking for posts on self-forgiveness and I love how you talk about it from a biblical standpoint!! Thank you for sharing.

  16. KC on March 27, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    “As we know, forgiveness of oneself is the hardest of all the forgivenesses, but it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.”

    How I Learned to Forgive: https://incmedia.org/how-i-learned-to-forgive/

  17. Nikki Kiser on April 27, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for this, Sunshyne! God is so good. There’s so much freedom in His truth.

  18. Anon on May 18, 2020 at 7:47 pm

    I am having a hard time forgiving myself for something I did against my spouse. He forgives me but I cannot seem to get my own offense out of my head. I messed up and I totally didn’t deserve his forgiveness and he was so quick to forgive me and wasn’t upset with me. I feel horrible and I don’t know how to not feel this way.

  19. Pamela on June 20, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    I cannot forgive myself because I let my mum down at the end of her life 2 years ago. I was in a bad place mentally and spiritually, for reasons unconnected with my mum, and was unable to cope with her failing health, but I hadnt told my mum what was going on with me. She must have wondered why I wasnt being as loving as normal.
    I know God has forgiven me for letting my mum down, and people say that my mum would forgive me too, as a mother’s love is unconditional, however I am tortured by the fact that I never had a chance to say “sorry” to my mum. I feel that hanging onto my guilt is the only way I can say sorry to my mum as I have no right to be happy.

  20. Valentine on August 11, 2020 at 2:05 am

    I am going through a tough times of self rejection which is as a result of not forgiving myself but this article has been helpful..God bless you

  21. Shanda on September 6, 2020 at 6:32 am

    I believe forgiving one’s self is a process. For me I struggled with guilt and self condemnation. One day I asked The Lord to speak to my heart about how I was feeling and grabbed my bible and started reading Philippians. I came across 3:13… Paul speaks about his past both good and bad…and says

    ” forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”

    This is what I speak to myself over and over. And praying this scripture and Thanking The Lord for these words and for His future plans has really strengthened and healed me. So I just wanted to share in case it might speak to anyone else.

    • Sunshyne Gray on September 9, 2020 at 9:31 am

      Thank you for sharing, Shanda- that is a powerful verse to point to in the situation of forgiving yourself. I have no doubt that Scripture will be a blessing to many who read those words<3

  22. Robert on December 28, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you so much. I have asked my sister to forgive me but she doesn’t. I belives the Lord forgives me. It hard to forgive myself because when I tell my sister that I am sorry and I really meant it but she always that I don’t mean it. What do I do to forgive myself?

  23. Elbetel on February 16, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you this is really helpful.

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