Put Away Guilt and Shame and Forgive Yourself

Karen Allen reminds us that when we practise the godly act of forgiving others, there will be instances in our lives where we must forgive ourselves

Caught in adultery, the woman stood with her shoulders slumped, head hung in shame, tears streaming down her face, knowing she had done wrong, and fully expecting the consequences of her wrongdoings to result in death. She was indeed to blame and was ashamed. Rightfully so. Or was it? Jesus didn’t seem to agree… As she stood hopeless and helpless in the midst of her accusers, Jesus stooped down (John 8:1-7).

Jesus stooped down!!!

I looked up the definition of the phrase ‘stoop down’ because the actions of Jesus blew my mind. One definition reads “to descend from a superior rank”; another described stooping down as “a lowering of oneself”. I had to read that again. Jesus descended from a superior rank and lowered himself TWICE for the sake of this sinful woman…

This story ends with Jesus asking this woman a profound question: ‘Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more”’

(John 8:10-11 NLT).

Her sin was forgiven, and Jesus covered her shame. I personally believe that was the easy part. Receiving forgiveness from others is often light work compared to granting ourselves the same grace when it comes to our personal mistakes and failings.

I cannot imagine the shame this woman must have experienced at the hands of those men in leadership, who conveniently caught her “in the very act” of adultery. She must have welcomed the idea of death – that would have been my stance.

Self-blame and public shame are destiny-killers. There are countless believers, sons and daughters of the Everlasting Father who are riddled with guilt and are drowning in a sea of shame due to their own actions. They simply cannot find the courage or the grace to forgive themselves although that is what it will take. 

The Bible commands us to forgive.  Forgiveness for the man or woman in the mirror must not be excluded from the equation. YOU MUST FORGIVE YOURSELF. It’s hard, but it is a prerequisite. Too many people do not believe this, but that’s because they may have overlooked the truth in this verse: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37 NLT)

We often read this verse as it relates to others, but we cannot and must not overlook its meaning as it relates to ourselves. Blame and shame are not a reflection of God’s character; both are a consequence of sin which was never in God’s original plan for humanity.

So, how do we forgive ourselves, especially if our sin has resulted in life-altering consequences? Well, let’s see what the Bible says…

1. Acknowledge your wrongdoing

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9 KJV).

Once you have confessed your wrongdoing to God, forgiveness is granted instantly. Now take a moment to acknowledge the wrong you have done to yourself. It may sound strange but try it! Acknowledgement is step one in the process of forgiveness; confession is part of that acknowledgement process. 

2.    Ask yourself for forgiveness 

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (Mark 11:25 NLT).

This may seem bizarre but talking to yourself is a practical step that can help in the process of forgiveness. Look at yourself in the mirror. Look into your eyes and tell yourself that you are sorry and ask yourself for forgiveness. Hold that position until you feel a release. The Holy Spirit will help you. 

3.    Allow yourself to heal

‘…and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’ (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

Be kind to yourself, allow yourself to heal. It’s a process. It may take some time but, whenever the enemy comes to you with accusations about your past sins and mistakes, recall the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery: Jesus STOOPED DOWN for her, but He DIED for you. Imagine that!!!

Forgiving ourselves is an act of obedience to the instruction that Jesus gave, when He lovingly said to this sinful woman: “Go and sin no more.” When we forgive ourselves, we can be naked before the One who loves us most and not feel ashamed. 

Karen Allen is a minister, personal development coach and activist who is challenging and changing the narrative for young people and Black men. Visit www.karenallen.info

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