While preparing for Sunday’s message I was, again, reminded of how important Forgiveness is for one’s recovery process. While most of us would readily agree that it is important to forgive others, the aspect of forgiving ourselves is often overlooked.
Forgiveness of Self
At one time or another we have all done something we are not proud of or treated someone in a manner that we have since come to regret. Most of these lapses (read sins) can be relatively inconsequential if we act immediately to resolve issue, primarily by apologizing and making the situation ‘right’. It is when we refuse to admit what we have done, or attempt to hide our actions that we run into trouble. These actions eventually lead to feelings of guilt and shame, usually sending us deeper and deeper into a double life that we build to protect ourselves from the pain and embarrassment of being ‘found out’.
This is the basis for the formation of many addictive behaviors as we enter into a cycle consisting of acting out in our addiction of choice, followed by guilt and shame, resolving to stop the behavior in question, the return of the pain or triggering stimuli, followed by anger and a sense of entitlement that result in another session of ‘acting out’; and the cycle begins anew. If this cycle is not broken it can settle into the core or our being and can lead to extreme self-loathing, depression, and increased risk-taking while acting out. Ultimately, these activities could lead to suicidal thoughts and actions as we listen to the lies of our enemy and come to believe that those around us would be better off without us.
In order to effectively break this cycle we must seek help from God, and those He has placed around us. We must be willing to forgive ourselves for the hurts we have inflicted on others as well as to ourselves. This includes those hurts that are imagined or apparent only to us. However, this is not an easy process and often requires professional assistance as we work to break free from our self-imposed sentence in which we have, effectively, determined to punish ourselves with a life sentence of solitary confinement.
It should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway: The only way we can be free from the judgments we’ve placed against ourselves is to understand we are the ones imposing the sentence and, therefore, others can only walk with as we seek God’s help in releasing ourselves from ourselves. Some people in recovery will be looking for an excuse to relapse, and their own feelings of guilt can provide them with this excuse. As such, we need to ensure we have the necessary support in place to help us overcome our guilt and not fall prey to feelings that we are not worthy of forgiveness (low self-esteem). Instead, be encouraged with the following:
– We do, indeed have value; value to the extent that God thought we were important enough to send His Son to die for our sins! Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NKJV)
– We should also be encouraged to continue the process of turning away from our past deeds and thoughts by training ourselves to think in a completely new fashion. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)
– How can this be accomplished? Through God and the power of His Word!! “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV)
In my last post, I encouraged you to “look closely at your life and look for areas of wounding, habits, and potentially destructive behaviors from which you may need deliverance and healing”. This ‘inventory’ is an essential part of the recovery process and, for those familiar with 12-Step programs, comes into play when one reaches Step #4 which says “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”. The Celebrate Recovery® program ties this step to Lamentations 3:40, where we find this exhortation: “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD” (NKJV).
Next week we will discuss the importance of forgiving others. Until then, remember:
In order for us to properly and effectively offer and seek healing through forgiveness, we must be willing to ask God to assist us in identifying, and facing, the wrongs that have been committed against and by us. It is only then that we can truly ask God to help us to forgive ourselves and those who have caused past, or present, pains in our lives.
Taking Every Thought Captive!