Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to forgive yourself

Continuation of a talk from: Bo Sanchez


For years, I would fall into habitual sexual sins. And when I did, I had a hard time believing that God would still forgive me. I was filled with disgust. I was so fed up with my sin, I figured He was fed up with me too. I projected onto Him my disgust and imagined that He was tired of forgiving me again and again.

Yet every time I prayed, something in me would say, “God isn’t like that.” And deeper in my heart, I would hear His voice say, “Bo, nothing you do can ever diminish my love for you.”

These words burned within me. I searched the Bible and found these words and claimed them for myself.

For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more

If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Ultimately, it was this incredible love that healed me of my addiction.

* Can You Be As Forgiving To Yourself?

In one large gathering, a young woman came up to me and asked, “Can you hear my confession?” I shook my head, “I’m sorry, I’m not a priest.” But I saw desperation in her eyes as she told me, “But can I still confess my sins to you?”

“I can listen to you, pray for you, but I can’t absolve your sins,” I said.

She said, “That’s fine. I just need someone to talk to…” We walked to a corner of the hall and she poured her heart to me, sharing her guilt to me. As she did so, I felt an urging from God to tell her, “My dear friend, God loves you more than you can ever imagine,” and she began to cry almost uncontrollably.

She said, “Bo, I know God loves me. But I don’t love myself. I know God forgives me. But I can’t forgive myself for what I’ve done.”

Through the years, I’ve met many people like her who already asked for God’s forgiveness, but can’t seem to forgive themselves. Even if the Bible says, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful, it’s funny how people aren’t merciful to themselves.

So I told her, “Then you’re very proud of your sin.”

Her eyes bulged, obviously shocked.

“What did you say again?” she asked.

* Are You Proud Of Your Sin?

I told her, “You fall into pride on three counts. First, you seem to think that your sin is bigger than God’s love for you. That’s pride. Friend, God’s love is bigger than your sin…”

“And second, you seem to think that your moral standards are higher than God’s standards. That’s pride. Allow Him to love you in your brokenness. And give yourself permission to love YOU. And third…”

“Did I hear it right? Give myself permission to love me?”

I knew that those words were new to her.

“Yes! And third, all this time, you’ve been focusing on your sin. Am I right?”

She nodded.

“You think God wants you to grieve and wallow in guilt? You’re wrong. When you focus on your sin, you’re not focusing on God. Focus on God. Focus on God’s love for you. Or you fall into despair.” I began to think of Judas and how despair killed him.

The Bible says Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

How do we fall? Let me count the ways…

* What Happens If You Don’t Forgive Yourself

If you don’t forgive yourself, you may have these problems…

* You’ll have unresolved guilt nagging you

* You’ll always be recalling past failures

* You’ll be pessimistic and negative, or even suffer from chronic depression

* You’ll be seeking revenge toward yourself at different times

* You’ll manifest self-destructive behaviors.

* You’ll be disrespectful towards yourself

* You’ll be indifferent toward yourself and your needs

* You’ll be defensive and exhibit distant behavior towards others

* You’ll be controlled by your fear of failure, rejection, and non-approval

* You’ll have an emotional vacuum in which little or no emotions are shown

* You’ll be suspicious about others’ motives when they’re accepting of you

* You’ll experience chronic hostility, sarcasm, and cynicism

It is a sad life!

Make a decision now to forgive yourself now.

Before Anything Else, Discern:

* Are They Real Sins Or Imagined Sins?

Before we even forgive ourselves — or even ask forgiveness from God — answer one question. Have you really sinned against God? Or have you just failed someone else’s standards?

Sometimes, we can set up our selves for big-time guilt by making lots of rules that God never wanted us to make.

For example, in the 1980’s, I used to teach my community members this spiritual regimen: To pray one hour a day, read the Bible one hour a day, and read other spiritual books one hour a day — for a total of 3 hours a day. I also encouraged them to go for daily Mass, daily Rosary, and an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. I was still a young teen then, and I could certainly do all of that, but I was oblivious to the fact that my members had jobs and kids to take care of. Boy, did I set them up for a very long guilt trip! (Forgive me, Lord.) None of them could ever measure up to my standards. But those rules that I made were just mine, not God’s rules. (Leaders need to be careful not to set people up to discouragement, or we rob them of joy in their life with God.)

I also remember a woman who felt guilty for disappointing her husband again and again. She would constantly ask for forgiveness from God for being a terrible wife. But when she described her husband to me, I instantly knew that he was the problem. He wanted his clothes to be pressed in a particular way, his egg cooked in a particular way, his newspaper laid out on the table each morning in a particular way. And if his wife will not do it in this particular way, he labelled her as a disappointing wife. Not true! I told her that she has not sinned and there was nothing to ask forgiveness from God.

But if we have indeed sinned against God, then let us take these next two steps…

* Forgive Yourself Now!

Let’s pray.

Place your hands on your chest.

Step #1: Ask God For Forgiveness

Lord, forgive me now, in Jesus name. Forgive me for all my sins and failures. I believe You love me. I believe that Your love is bigger than my sins and failures. Today, I receive your forgiveness. Thank you for loving me!

Go to confession!

Step #2: Forgive Yourself

Today, I make a choice to forgive ME. I know that God has forgiven me. I don’t have to be perfect for me to love ME. I am a very good person because God made me very good. As God loves me, so do I love ME. I no longer need to condemn me. I am forgiven by God, and I forgive ME, in Jesus name. Amen.

My next post will discuss Bo's second step of loving yourself - Accept Your Weaknesses.

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