So this year for the first time ever I took part in lent, I decided to give up chocolate. If you know me you know I am a chocoholic, so it has been challenging. But when I think of Easter and really grasp the concept of salvation, and how God forgave me even before I did wrong I would give up chocolate another 40 days and it still would not be enough. God’s mercy is something we can’t quantify, let alone afford. Which leads me to the topic for today…
I am sure you have all heard the phrase “charity begins at home”, which simply means “a person’s first responsibility is for the needs of their own family and friends.” In my own words, you can only make an impact on your wider community once you have impacted your smaller circle, including yourself. I think this principle should apply to many aspects of our life, especially forgiveness.
START WITH YOU
I am someone who STRUGGLES with forgiveness and letting go. I wonder, what hope is there for me to forgive others when I do not forgive myself even though I know the deepest corners of my heart? It is even more difficult to forgive someone who you have no idea of their intentions, their level of remorse or whether they will offend or cause you pain again.
I have this habit of beating myself up for decisions I have made that have caused me some sort of pain. Years after a situation occurred I will still be so harsh on myself. Whether it is taking back a guy you should not have, doing something “ungodly”, not studying hard enough at school, or not biting your tongue when you could have; I am sure we all have regrets, big or small. What we all need to accept is that we do not have a time machine in this life and we can not change any of these incidents, unfortunately.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does change the future”.
Harboring animosity towards yourself does not make you a better person. Hold yourself accountable without holding yourself hostage. Accept you have done wrong, apologise if necessary, and then move on. I know, easier said than done! Come with a pure heart is the most you can do, leave the rest to God. Some things will be easier to ‘get over’ than others, dependent on the extent of the relationship and the extent of the offense. But ultimately, you can not expect someone to forgive you if you have not forgiven yourself. See yourself as worthy of forgiveness before you ask of it from another person.
How can I see myself as worthy of forgiveness?
1. Confession: Whether you are religious or not, there is a freedom that comes from accountability. This does not mean telling everyone what you have got up to in your darkest moments, but rather than running from your actions, facing them and accepting the only way to truly move forward is to acknowledge the past.
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]
3. Acceptance: This is the part we move forward. If God has forgiven me, who am I to still hate myself?
Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” [Hebrews 10:17]
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; [Daniel 9:9]
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [Colossians 1:13-14]
I am saying all of this because, if you have had trouble letting go and forgiving others, I think it is wise to take a look at yourself and see if you have had trouble forgiving yourself.
It is inevitable for people to offend you; Strangers, acquaintances or loved ones. I believe it is vital to hold the ones closest to us to the same new standard we hold ourselves. How can we forgive the stranger who steps on our foot on the morning commute, or the entitled middle-aged woman that just shoved you, or that one colleague who always makes ignorant comments? We have more room for forgiveness of trivial things when we have exercised our forgiveness on the DEEP issues we have faced. I always say, the people we love the most have the most leverage to hurt us. “But, some people in our lives have done things which are simply unforgivable!” But God can forgive ANYONE! As painful as it is, God can forgive a murder, a liar and a thief. Nothing is too much for God to forgive. If you are anything like me you’ll be saying “I am not God” or “Jesus is still working on me”, both of which are right. However, the main message I want to pass on is that we do not forgive others for their own good like God does, we forgive for OURSELVES. We forgive so we can love again. We forgive so we have peace. We forgive so God forgives us.