What gives me the right to forgive myself?


This was the question I was pondering today in prayer, and as I was mulling it over, a statement popped into my head:

“Do not call unclean what I have made clean.”

I knew I’d heard that before, although I wasn’t exactly sure where, so I looked it up when I got home. There it was in Acts 10:15.

I thought about the idea of forgiving myself for quite some time. I wondered how it was possible, and even if it was, what it would actually mean. Does forgiving myself mean deciding that what happened wasn’t really that bad after all? No. Does it mean I’m going to erase this mistake from my mind and never think of it again. No, that’s not humanly possible. The old self acted in a way that hurt so many people (not least of all me). Forgiving myself means letting that self die, burying it like a seed in the ground, and letting the painful lessons I’ve learned from that mistake become nutrients for the completely new self slowly springing up. What’s going to happen to the new self if I keep digging up the old self to see how small, hard, and ugly it was? The best case scenario is its growth will be stunted, and worst case, it will die and I’ll be stuck with the old self that I just couldn’t let go of. I can have the old or the new, but I can’t have both. Does God want me to be the person I was? No. Does he want to cultivate that new and improved version of me? Absolutely. So who am I to tell God I’m staying in this hole I dug for myself when he is calling me out of it?

I’m free of my sins not because I said so – I’m free because when I turned away from those sins, God commanded my release. Staying in my little prison cell after he’s opened the door is just adding monumentally to the self-centred foolishness that put me there in the first place. By forgiving myself I’m not condoning my mistakes, I’m allowing God to help me become a completely new creation. I’ll be stronger against sin now that I know its heavy price, wiser in my future choices, more humble because I know my weaknesses, and more forgiving because I’ve been forgiven.