White flower and a note to forgive yourself

When we think of forgiveness, we usually think of forgiving others. It is, however, also vital to forgive yourself. As Christian Women, we need to take stock of our hearts occasionally to see whether we harbor unforgiveness against ourselves. You may hide it in your heart because you believe it is hard to forgive yourself.

Learning to forgive others also means learning to forgive ourselves. We can find it tough to forgive ourselves because we feel guilt or shame. Guilt and shame are not the same things.

Shame is a painful emotion caused by having done something wrong or improper. If we feel ashamed, we usually want to hide our mistakes and we definitely don’t want to admit them. The feeling of shame is not from God. The devil prompts shame. He first traps us into doing the wrong things and afterward whispers condemnations in our ears.

Guilt is taking the responsibility for having done something wrong. If we feel guilty about what we did, it means we acknowledge we harmed. Guilt is a healthy basis for forgiveness. The feeling of guilt originates from God. It is a feeling prompted by the Holy Spirit living in us.

Whether we feel shame, guilt, or none of it, God wants us to forgive ourselves.

What does it mean when you can’t forgive yourself?

When we find it hard to forgive ourselves, it means we carry guilt and shame at the same time. We know we should forgive ourselves-we may even tell others to forgive themselves-but doing it simply seems impossible. We feel the nudge, but we postpone the action because we feel paralyzed to do it.

If we can’t forgive ourselves, we most likely didn’t accept God’s forgiveness. Receiving God’s forgiveness is the basis for forgiving ourselves and others. When we say, “I can’t forgive myself,” it usually means we are holding on to guilt and shame for sins already paid for by Christ. We see ourselves as owing a debt we can never repay, instead of resting in the grace of the fully paid debt on the cross. Jesus’ forgiveness is a gift, not something we must earn.

Pride and stubbornness can also be at play, because we don’t want to admit we did something wrong… so there isn’t anything to forgive ourselves for. You cannot forgive yourself if you don’t own up to what you did to yourself and to the person you wronged.

If we don’t forgive ourselves, it can become a massive weight, suffocating us with guilt and shame. You may spend your days obsessing about how to overcome the past, desperately searching for a way to forgive yourself somehow.

What to do when you can’t forgive yourself?

If forgiving yourself looks like a daunting task in your eyes and you think it is too hard to do, face yourself and face God. We face ourselves by telling the truth; admitting we did wrong and feeling sorry, and acknowledging we shouldn’t have done it. With this acceptance of our mistakes, we can face God and ask Him for forgiveness.

We should ensure we stay in God’s presence, if we feel like it or not, and whether we feel forgiven or not. It is only in His presence that we will learn to forgive ourselves, no matter how hard that is. We can remind ourselves that we are free of condemnation. Why would we condemn ourselves? God doesn’t condemn us. He loves us. So why would we not love ourselves?

If we find it difficult to forgive ourselves because we feel so guilty, we can engage in worship, prayer, Bible study for ourselves, and declaring God’s Word over ourselves. We can declare God’s Word over ourselves by reading-aloud positive Bible verses about forgiveness and by creating Biblical declarations we can speak over ourselves to help us forgive ourselves.

Spending time with God is always the best thing to do if we don’t know what to do.

How do you forgive yourself for saying hurtful things?

Mostly when we hurt people, it is by our words. Yes, we can hurt others with our actions as well, but our tongue is more frequent in sinning. It can lead us into all kinds of trouble.

We can also harm ourselves with our words. If we always declare negativity over ourselves, we hurt our self-image.

So, with forgiving for saying hurtful things, we need to look at the things we say to and about others, as well as at the things we say about ourselves.

“In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

James 3:5-6 (NLT)

God gave us a tongue to praise and serve Him. It is up to us to use it well. If we don’t want to get into trouble, we need to control our tongues. If not, our tongues will control us.

“but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.”

James 3:8-9 (NLT)

Unfortunately, even as Christian women, we often still use our tongues wrongly, no matter how hard we try not to sin with our mouths. That is because trying to do this on our own might be impossible. We need the Holy Spirit to help us.

Things to do to spiritually forgive yourself

The things we said can be against ourselves and against others, triggered by our moods and emotions or by external factors. No matter the cause and no matter the depth of harm caused, and no matter how hard we think it is, we need to ask God for forgiveness, and we need to forgive ourselves. So, if you are wondering whether you should forgive yourself, the answer is ‘yes!’.

Here are a few things to do to help you forgive yourself spiritually:

  • Admit your mistake.
  • Repent of what you said.
  • Confess to God and ask Him for forgiveness.
  • Know you are human and not perfect.
  • Understand the reason you said it and the circumstances under which it happened.
  • Approach the person you hurt and apologize.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Write yourself an apology note.
  • (Re-) Commit yourself to God and stay in His presence daily.
  • Take care of yourself, spiritually, mentally, and physically.

How do you forgive yourself and let go?

When we forgive ourselves, it is vital to let go as well. If we would forgive but still hold on to the harm we caused, it would be difficult to go on with our lives and have peace at the same time. To let go is already difficult, but it would be even harder without forgiving ourselves.

To let go of what we did, no matter how terrible that was, we need to focus on God fully, not on our faults. God loves us and has forgiven us. He forgives our terrible mistakes and our ‘tiny’ mistakes. There is no difference for God.

It is His love that forgave us, and it is His love that keeps us going. When we accept that love, we brace ourselves to let go. God washed us with His blood. He has set us free. We shouldn’t keep ourselves as prisoners in our own condemning voices and spirit of unforgiveness.

Here is how to forgive yourself and let go of regrets:

  • Admit. Acknowledge you hurt someone.
  • Accept. Recognize that you are human and know that every human makes mistakes.
  • Humble. Ask forgiveness from God and the one you hurt.
  • Release. Cast the burden on to the Lord.
  • Learn. Discover the lesson from your mistakes.
  • Visualize. Imagine a future picture of yourself free from guilt, regret, and self-condemnation.

If we forgave ourselves and let go of past wrongs, it means we took two crucial steps to clear our pasts. However, if we do nothing else afterward, our lives will be stagnant. We need to focus on the future as well.

How do you forgive yourself and start all over?

Starting all over means we need to focus fully on the future. As Christian women, this means we focus on God and the plans He has for us. We take a step of faith and trust Him with our future.

Our faith is the bridge between the rocky side of the ravine where we hurt others and ourselves and the green pastures on the other side which are full of options and possibilities. The bridge may look wobbly, but it is the only way to get to the other side. If we look back (or down) while we walk, we may slip. Our heads must face forward to the promised land.

To take this bridge, we need to repent truly and keep our eyes fixed on the desired end. We should stop focusing on our mistakes and stop dwelling on the past. To reach the other end, we must take steps. We will never arrive if we stand on the rocky side, gazing to the other side. No matter how pretty it looks over there, we won’t arrive unless we take steps.

To start all over starts with one little step, a step of faith. Then, we keep going, one step after the other, until we arrive. We should take sides with God to reach our destination. God is faithful. He won’t let us down on the way and He won’t leave us when we are on the other side of the ravine.

God has a plan for you. So why would you want to continue living in the past?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
Jeremiah 29 verse 11 blue background with flower
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7 Forgive yourself quotes

In the same way as we need reminders to do groceries and book an appointment, we can use some reminders to forgive ourselves. Here are seven quotes about forgiving yourself.

  1. “The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself.” – Confucius.
  2. “Never forget that to forgive yourself is to release trapped energy that could be doing good work in the world.” – D. Patrick Miller.
  3. “The burden of regret can weigh us down heavily on our spiritual journey. The best way to release regret is to forgive ourselves.” – James Van Praagh.
  4. “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.” – Bible, Psalm 86:5.
  5. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes.
  6. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” – Bible, Luke 6:37.
  7. “Do as the heavens have done, forget your evil; With them, forgive yourself.” – William Shakespeare.

God forgives anyone and everyone. We can copy this attitude and forgive others but also ourselves because we are part of ‘everyone’. So, if we want to live like Jesus, we should be kind and forgiving toward ourselves no matter how hard that can be.

The Bible has many verses about forgiveness and many verses with the concept of forgiving and forgetting. A verse we can use as a quote to remember to apply kindness and forgiveness to others and ourselves is:

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Let’s Pray

Thank You, Jesus! You paid the price for me. I am forgiven. I am sorry I used this freedom to sin and hurt others. Please forgive me. Help me guard my heart and mouth, and not to sin again.

People tell me, “No need to forgive yourself”, but even though it is hard, I choose to do it. I want to obey You and be a forgiving person, including toward myself. I forgive myself.

I embrace the plans You have for me and refuse to live in the past any longer. Help me start all over again. Thank You. Amen.