Do We Really Need to Forgive Ourselves?

Understanding the good and bad side of regret

Scripture doesn’t mention forgiving ourselves. 

When we feel we haven’t forgiven ourselves, we’re actually talking about regret. 

Regret can be positive: 

1. It can humble us, leading to repentance, restoration, and reconciliation. 

James 4:8-10: Come close to God [with a contrite heart] and He will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; and purify your [unfaithful] hearts, you double-minded [people]. 9 Be miserable and grieve and weep [over your sin]. Let your [foolish] laughter be turned to mourning and your [reckless] joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves [with an attitude of repentance and insignificance] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up, He will give you purpose]. (Amplified Bible)

2. Paul let his regret motivate him to great ministry (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

1 Timothy 1:12-13: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man...

Regret can also be negative

Do We Really Need to Forgive Ourselves? Understanding Regret
1. We can wallow in self-pity, regretting our consequences without actually regretting our sins. Cain is an example of this type of regret (Genesis 4:1-13).

Cain was guilty of first degree murder of his own brother, but when God punished Cain, he said the punishment was too hard. We are just as arrogant and selfish if we regret our consequences more than we regret our sin.  

For more on Cain:  A Good Bad Example and Things that Make Me Sad and What We Learn from Bad Guys Like Cain.

The answer: face our sins and accept our consequences like King David (2 Samuel 12:1-23). 

King David committed terrible sins, and when Nathan confronted him, he immediately confessed his guilt even though Nathan explained these consequences:

2 Samuel 12:10-12: The sword will never depart from your house,* because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ 11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 

In addition, God took the life of David's and Bathsheba's newborn son.

David prayed and fasted asking the Lord to spare his son, but when his son died, David's first act was to worship the Lord. 

David understood that he deserved his punishments. 

The death of David's child might seem an unjust punishment, but from an eternal perspective, it was not. That child was spared the difficulties of being a son of David,* and most Bible scholars agree that those under the age of accountability go straight into the arms of Jesus when they die. So David suffered, not the innocent child.

For more on David:
Short List Repentance

2. We can regret our sins but refuse to move forward. 

Typically this comes from dwelling too much on our own feelings and becoming hopeless and insecure. 

Understanding the good and bad side of regretThe answer: Paul gives us the wisdom we need to move forward.  

Imagine the regret that Paul felt. He had persecuted Christians and rejoiced when Steven was stoned to death. He had much to regret, but he moved forward in the strength of the Lord. See Anti-Christian Extremist.

Philippians 3:7-14. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

If you are struggling with regret, I encourage you to read this passage daily. Ask the Lord to help you move forward beyond self-pity, hopelessness, and insecurity. He can and will do it!

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