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Self-Forgiveness

When I was 16 I ran over my cat with my car. She was blind and deaf, and I was new to the whole operating heavy machinery thing, I didn’t kill her per say, but rather broke her back legs. When the veterinarian asked my father, “We can save her, but it will cost $2,000 would you like us to proceed?” Pops almost offered to put her down himself. So, although it was the sweet euphoria of euthanization that took Punkie in the end, I’ve blamed myself for years for her death.
It’s tough to forgive yourself.
I remember watching a scene from the first Spiderman movie about forgiveness (the cheesy ones with Toby McGuire from the early 2000’s, not the cool new ones).  He is in the hospital room with his Aunt Mae after the Green Goblin (who I still consider one of the best villains in comics) attacked her at Peter Parker’s home. He is stating how he has messed things up with Mary Jane, and she will never forgive him. Aunt Mae, in her sage like wisdom, advises him that sometimes you have to forgive yourself first.
At first, I thought, “stupid.” Then, upon further reflection, I realized maybe it’s not so stupid after all.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the most important being to seek forgiveness from is God through repentance. This should always be first, and it is clear in the Bible that this is the case as well.
However, God gives forgiveness and mercy freely. You don’t have to earn it from Him. That is why it’s grace.
Humans on the other hand, struggle with the concept.
When I repent to God, there is no doubt in my mind that He has forgiven me. I on the other hand, am a bit tougher on myself, and believe that I need to go through a personal mental punishment in order to be right again. In the words of Everett McGill in O Brother Where Art Thou,  “Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.”
If God can give us grace, why can’t we give ourselves grace? My conclusion is thus: it is the upmost of hubris when we refuse to forgive ourselves for our sins. It is equivalent to saying that we know better than God, and trust ourselves with our repentance and punishment rather than Him.
Next time you repent to the Lord, take the time to take personal stock of your heart as well. Do you believe that your Father in Heaven is quick to forgive you for sin? If so, what is stopping you from letting go and forgiving yourself?

 

James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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