People frequently say, “I know that God has forgiven me. And I’m sure that I have forgiven those who wronged me. But I still have no peace in my heart. Something is not quite right.” Oftentimes this disquietude can be an unforgiving spirit directed toward ourselves, not directed toward God for what He has done, nor directed toward others for what they have done. But there will be no peace in our hearts until we forgive ourselves for the wrongs that we have committed.
Begin by confessing my sin to the Lord, and believing His promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”-(1John.1:9). Then once I know God has forgiven me, I can forgive myself.
Consequences of Not Forgiving Ourselves
- The first consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we punish ourselves on an ongoing basis. How do we do that? We replay our sins continually. Satan initiates it, and we foolishly follow. We spiritually incarcerate ourselves despite the fact that no place in the Bible does God say He has forgiven us of “all our sins except…” Jesus paid it all. Jesus bore in His body the price for all our sins. No exceptions.
- The second consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we live under a cloud of uncertainty. We do not accept our forgiveness by God; we exist under an abiding question mark. If we never forgive ourselves, we can never be confident that God has forgiven us–and we bear the weight of this guilt.
- The third consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we develop a sense of unworthiness. Because we are guilty, we also feel unworthy. This sense of unworthiness hinders our prayer life, our intimate relationship with God, and our service for Him.
- The fourth consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we attempt to overcome our guilt by compulsive behaviour and excesses in our lives. We try to escape from the incessant self-pronouncements of guilt. Some of us invest huge amounts of energy into work–we work harder, faster, longer.
- The fifth consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we develop a false sense of humility when we feel permanently judged guilty and sentenced by God. We wear but a facade of humility when we declare ourselves so unworthy to serve God. And our “humble face” serves as a mask to keep us from seeing our true face.
- The sixth consequence of a self-directed unforgiving spirit is that we deprive ourselves of things God wants us to enjoy. Self-deprivation is the opposite of compulsive behavior and excesses. We do not achieve a state of forgiveness by arbitrarily abstaining from enjoyable things in our lives. God does not ask us to deprive ourselves in order to “deserve” forgiveness.
How do we forgive ourselves? Regardless of how long we have been in bondage, we can be free if we follow four Biblical steps.
1) Recognize the Problem. We must come to grips with the fact that we still hold ourselves in bondage. “Lord, I realize I haven’t forgiven myself and am in bondage because of it.”
2) Repent of Sin. We must repent of sin for which we cannot forgive ourselves. And we must thank Him for His forgiveness as we confess our sin to Him. “I thank You, Jesus, for forgiving me for holding myself in bondage, for keeping myself from You, and for limiting Your use of me.”
3) Reaffirm Trust. We must reaffirm our trust in the testimony of Scripture: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm103:12) “Lord, I reaffirm my trust and my faith in the Word of God.”
4) Confess Freedom and Choose to Receive It. We must confess our freedom and choose to receive it freely. “Lord Jesus, on the basis of Your Word, by an act of my will, in faith, I here and now forgive myself because You have already forgiven me. I accept my forgiveness and I choose from this moment to be freed of all which I have held against myself. Please confirm my freedom to me by the power and presence of Your Holy Spirit.”
Forgiveness is liberating, but it is also sometimes painful. It is liberating because we are freed from the heavy load of guilt, bitterness, and anger we have harbored within. It is painful because it is difficult to have to face ourselves, God and others with our failures. It seems easier to blame others and go on defending our position of being right, even though we continue to hurt. But the poison of an unforgiving spirit that permeates our entire lives, separating us from God and friends, can never be adequately defended. It is devastating to our spiritual and emotional well-being and to our physical health.
Emotional and psychological hurts (caused both by our sin and by our being sinned against) linger in the form of bad memories (thoughts of hurtful experiences from the past) and barriers to personal growth. They may even lead us into various forms of sin, emotional problems and physical illnesses.The healing of these past hurts restores the inward (unseen and unseeable) part of men and women, as opposed to purely physical, visible or outward healing. Therefore, the healing of past hurts is commonly called “inner healing.”
According to author David Seamands, inner healing is “ministering to and praying for damaged emotions and unhealed memories.” The burden of pain that we carry drains our energy from creative and productive activity and makes us feel unworthy, guilty, hopeless, broken and unforgivable.
This burden would be destructive enough if its effects went no further, but such is not the case. These negative feelings, now converted over a period of time into attitudes, begin to develop within us negative patterns of behavior, and our past begins to destroy our present. That which is so negative begins to want to destroy itself, and so we develop habits of self-destruction or habits of sin.
Some of the initial manifestations can be a judgmental spirit that is harsh and demanding on self and others, a strong perfectionist attitude demanding the impossible from self and others, a strong pattern of fearing future events, a sense of aloneness and abandonment whenever there are times of decision, a preoccupation with one’s own guilt and a compulsive reaction to compete for position and success. Usually there is a constant expectation of growth or breakthrough to a new spiritual freedom, but it hasn’t happened. It doesn’t happen because the heart is hurting.
God desires to heal our wounds and take our pain and hurt from us. Hanging onto fear, hurt and pain can actually block the healing power of the Holy Spirit in your soul. It is vital to open up and allow the Lord to heal your wounds.
Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”
Jesus paid the price for the healing of our souls and to set us free from the bondage that we have come under from the bruises that we’ve received. It is important to God that we receive this inner healing… His Son paid a costly price for it!
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Inner healing is indicated whenever we become aware that we are held down in any way by the hurts of the past. Any unreasonable fear, anxiety, or compulsion caused by patterns built up in the past can be broken by prayer, provided the person is also doing his best to discipline his life in a Christian way.
Allow your painful emotions to be released as you give them to the Lord. It’s okay to cry, sob and let the damaged emotions come out as they are given to the hands of the Lord. Holding on to the pain and hurt will only prevent you from be healed. James 5:16, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
If you can find a person to confide in, it can also be very helpful to share your burden with them and receive prayer for healing. There is tremendous healing that can take place as you share your pain with a fellow brother or sister in Christ! Knowing the true nature of our heavenly Father will help us to trust Him and open ourselves up so that we can receive the healing that only the Holy Spirit can provide for us.
Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” After Christ has suffered and died for us, why would He withhold healing our wounded souls? We can confidently open up to Him and know that He has our best interests in mind simply by looking at what He went through on the cross for us.
You are loved by God, not because of what you’ve done, but because of who you are. The Bible tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He longed to have a relationship with you even before you became His child! (Romans 5:8) “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that,while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Jesus said that the greatest love a man can show for his friends, is when he lays down his life for them (John 15:13,). Jesus laid down His life for us – that is how valuable and dear we are to Him!
It’s essential that we learn of and realize the love that our heavenly Father has for us. Without knowing the love of God for us, we cannot be filled with His fullness: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Realize God’s will for your mind and receive it! “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Abuse, trauma, hurt and pain are all works of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and restore His children to the fullness to which He created them to fulfill. When Jesus was here on earth, He went about doing the will of the Father in heaven, and this included healing all who were oppressed of the devil: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)
Jesus desire for you is to heal your broken heart and set you who have been bruised at liberty: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18)
He wants to restore your soul from all the damage that has been done to you: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:3)
Realizing your identity in Christ is absolutely vital to our healing process. You need to know that you are a new creation in Christ, freed from the darkness of your past, forgiven of your sins, and freedom and healing are yours because of the Blood that Christ shed for you! I encourage you to go through the teaching entitled, “Who we REALLY are” for more information.
It is absolutely vital that we NOT listen or pay attention to the voice of the devil in our minds. God’s Word tells us that we need to be taking every thought captive to the obedience to Christ: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)
One thing you can look out for is condemnation and fear. Both of these come from the enemy. “What if” thinking is always a giveaway that there’s a demon doing the speaking. For more information about condemnation, read Condemnation vs Conviction.
Forgiving yourself is a vital step that we must take while seeking inner healing. We need to love and appreciate the person that Christ has made in us! It is vital to see ourselves for who we really are in Christ. If you continue to beat yourself up for your past failures, after the Blood of Christ has washed them away, then you are, in reality, denying the very work of the cross!
Lastly, go to the pain, the emotional wound that is hidden within you, and confront it with the healing love of Christ. Knowing that Jesus has paid for your emotional wounds, hurts, pains, and sorrows, tell the inner hurt, painful memories, and emotional affliction to leave in the name of Jesus. Then call upon Jesus to remove those things from you. You might pray something like this,
"Lord Jesus, I love you, thank you for bearing my burden on the cross. I ask that take these inner hurts, painful memories, and emotional wounds from me right now. I submit them to you, and accept your peace in place of those things which I am giving up."