Pride Keeps Us from Forgiving…Ourselves

Well, I guess I have to apologize for neglecting my blog lately. With my oral comprehensive exam (three panelists grilling you on anything you learned in seminary) and the aftermath of catching up, I have put it on the back-burner. For that I apologize to you, my faithful readers. The reality is I am probably more frustrated with myself for not posting than you are. After all, there is plenty of better stuff to read on the internet.

I guess apologizing is only appropriate since this post is about forgiveness. It’s even more appropriate since I have been beating myself up for not posting, and this post is about forgiving yourself.

When we fail to forgive ourselves, we often think that it has to do with low self-esteem, or shame, or something like that. But my pastor said something in his sermon yesterday that made me reconsider (or at least nuance) that position.

Paraphrasing Dallas Willard, Pastor David said that not forgiving yourself can actually be a form of….wait for it….


What? It seems like it’s just the opposite! But let’s think about it. Most of us who can’t forgive ourselves don’t have as much difficulty in forgiving others for similar offenses. (Oh, it’s no problem that you were late. But I’m just so mortified that it happened to me!) So, if we are holding ourselves to higher standards than everyone else, it’s worth considering why. Might it be that, deep down, the majority of us think we are well above average?

But more importantly, especially for those of us who claim to have received the absolutely unconditional forgiveness of God, not forgiving ourselves is a fundamental contradiction of our faith. We believe (or so we say) that God’s mercy is absolutely free and that his mercy frees us absolutely. But when we fail to forgive ourselves what we really are putting our faith in is our own ability to get it right. We are saying that God’s mercy is fine for everyone else, but we’ll earn our way thank you very much. (Easier said than done, as the self-loathing of an unforgiving heart demonstrates.)

So I guess I shouldn’t be all that hard on myself for not meeting my New Year’s resolution of a bi-weekly post. But I should forgive myself, not because I’m not really that bad/lazy/negligent/insert-self-deprecating-adjective-here, but because no matter how much I am all of those things, I rest in the unconditional mercy and grace of a loving God whose Son absorbed all the shame I could ever dish out or ever receive.

What do you think?

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