Forgiveness. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do. When people wrong us we want the situation righted. We want justice for ourselves. We want them to get what is coming to them. Looking at someone who has done something terrible, saying we forgive them, and genuinely meaning it from the bottom of our hearts takes an incredible amount of love and compassion. However, it is not unheard of and indeed we hear it preached to us from multiple pulpits that we need to forgive others. But there is someone who we find it even harder to forgive who is never mentioned to us: Ourselves.
We live in a culture that tells us everything is all about us. With that in mind you think it would always be easy to brush off our own mistakes and simply not care when we’ve done something wrong. Sometimes this is the case. Then there are those times that we know we’ve messed up. Royally messed up. Those times we hurt the ones we cared about most, those times we fell backwards and did the things we swore that we had given up and would never do again, those times we became exactly what we said we would never be. While we live in a culture that tells us everything is about us, it also tells us to set high standards and expectations for ourselves. When we listen to the world and set expectations of ourselves, even if they are commendable ones like being a perfect parent or succeeding at a job, forgiving ourselves when we fail to meet these expectations is downright close to impossible. We’ve set ourselves to live by the rules and standards of the world, and the nature of the world is to be unforgiving.
Ultimately, the reason why it can be so much harder to forgive ourselves than someone else is because we know ourselves better than any other human being does. I can personally say that there are things about me that only I know. In fact, even with the things I’ve confessed to the ones I’m close to only I know all of the details. The fact is, to the people around us we can seem like pretty nice people, but then, they can’t see the inner demons that we struggle with. We fail to realize that the existence of faults and failed expectations does not prevent us from still being good people. We carry around these burdens, even if others have forgiven us, because we fail to forgive ourselves. We look at what we have done and say, “I don’t deserve grace.”
I’ve got great news for you: You’re right, you don’t.
“Whoa there, Wesley, how is confirming that I am so terrible that I don’t deserve grace a good thing?” Let’s face it, if deserving grace were criteria for receiving it, you and I and everyone else in the world would be in a whole lot of trouble. That’s the whole point. We beat ourselves up for not deserving something that by very definition is undeserved! We all know Romans 3:23, “The wages of sin is death.” Wages are something that are earned and are deserved. Paul does not write that the wages of sin are grace and forgiveness. Why is it then that we have a problem with not deserving grace? Nobody does!
Still though, even when we realize that it’s okay to not deserve grace we still have trouble accepting it. Allow me to go back to something I said earlier: the reason why it can be so much harder to forgive ourselves than someone else is because we know ourselves better than any other human being does. I’ve got more news for you. While it is true that we know ourselves better than any other human being does, God is not a human being. He sees us as better than even we can see ourselves. Yes, He sees the faults and the mess-ups and the failed expectations and the hurt that we’ve caused. Yet He offers grace regardless. He knows we don’t deserve it, and He certainly understands everything we’ve done wrong better than we do. If the Supreme Creator of the Universe is okay with offering us forgiveness we have no reason to not accept it and forgive ourselves in the process. We are not perfect by any means, but we are not defined by our imperfections.
There’s a great line in MercyMe’s song “Greater” that I really like: “There’ll be days I lose the battle, Grace says that it doesn’t matter cause the cross already won the war.” Don’t forget that despite our failures and shortcomings that we beat ourselves up over all the time, the victory is already won. Remember this week that God has offered grace for you and me and we can both take it to give to ourselves.
Co-Host of The Morning Thing