“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NIV).
What is the best gift you can give? It isn't found in a store. It isn't something that you can touch or feel. It isn't something that will one day get lost or damaged. It is real and changes hearts. This is the gift of God’s unconditional love, and it always inspires forgiveness. Forgiveness is free and keeps no record of wrong that has been done. It lets go of hurt and releases the one who caused the pain from any debt. It does not judge or condemn. In return you are also forgiven. Love and forgiveness and another chance are the very best gifts you can give to others and to yourself.
Forgiving yourself can be difficult. When you have repented and don't forgive yourself for what God has forgiven, you give those past wrongs the ability to wreak havoc in your life. That mistake or sin or fault can sit in the back of your mind and grow large and overwhelming. It can destroy your assurance of God's love and forgiveness, and make you question if He has truly forgiven you. He is a “God, ready to forgive, gracious and merciful” (Nehemiah 9:17, NIV). He has forgiven you completely and your debt is gone. The condemning guilt you feel can be wiped away.
How can you forgive yourself? There are no easy answers. What I share in this next paragraph comes from my own experience. Perhaps you believe you have forgiven someone for a betrayal or something they did that was dishonest. Perhaps you believe you have forgiven them for rejecting your love or neglecting your trust. If you have forgiven someone for what they have done, why can't you accept God's forgiveness for your own betrayal of others—for your own action that was less than completely honest—for that time you rejected love and neglected a trust? His love forgives when you repent. Perhaps the inability to forgive yourself lies in the fact that there are underlying unresolved feelings from things that have been done to you. Even though you have reached out and made amends and also been forgiven by others, maybe you still feel guilty and unworthy of forgiveness. Although you believe you have forgiven others for what they have done to you, your inability to forgive yourself might reveal something you haven't even realized–an inability to really forgive those who have hurt you.
Jesus has told us that if we forgive we will be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of will. His forgiveness within your heart begins with a mental decision to do it. When you open your mind and heart to the Holy Spirit, He begins a work of healing of unresolved feelings in His time and in His perfect way. Choose to forgive what has been done to you and choose to not hold anything against anyone who has hurt you. Ask God to help you deal with all feelings that are involved. Choose to forgive yourself, and let go of any hurt you harbor. Allow God to open you to what you need to face so that any emotional pain can be healed. He will help you move forward in His complete love and forgiveness, and He will deal with the pain of the past.
Jesus Christ promises to take to the grave all the hurt and bitterness and anger and rejection and neglect that you have experienced, and to raise you up with Him in newness of life. Today is a beginning. His love heals your heart. Allow Him to forgive. Choose Him.
Lynn Hampton Lacher