Forgiveness is a regular theme I discuss in my ministry, Spirit Filled Hearts. We must certainly forgive our neighbor, as we pledge to do every time we recite the “Our Father,” but we must remember, too, to forgive ourselves. We are forgiven! Amen? We may know that in our heads, but is it in our hearts? How many of us condemn ourselves for what we think we should have done, or mistakes that we have made? That has been my biggest challenge in my life!
Why is life so difficult? I asked my brother Bill that question. His answer? “Because it is supposed to be.” What adds to the challenge is that the devil wants us to believe that we are junk. That is one of the reasons I love Marriage Encounter. They have a saying: “God does not make junk!”
I have found that many people have the same challenge I do, a difficulty in forgiving themselves. I grew up in an environment where it felt like I had to be perfect in everything I did. If I wasn’t perfect then I wasn’t loved, or so I believed. I was condemned or ignored; that is what it felt like.
This is what my life was like. If my behavior was pleasing to my parents, I was accepted and praised. If my behavior was not pleasing, then I was ignored, sent to my room, or, worst case scenario, physically beaten. What did that lead to in my actions? Wanting to be accepted, I led a double life: the life I wanted my parents to see, and my real life. I was not free. I was in bondage.
Jesus told us clearly in John 10:10:
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
Yet because I didn’t know Jesus on a personal basis, I relied on myself to try to survive emotionally. How did it work out? Not well. I hid my feelings. I only shared what I wanted my parents or other people to know. This was not freedom. I needed to be set free by Jesus Christ.
A few years ago, I met a woman at a Catholic convention in Anaheim who also had this “condemnation of self” syndrome. I saw her after one of my workshops and she told me she needed to talk to me in private. She tracked me down after the Saturday evening service and spoke to me about her life. She had traveled down from the Northwest with her pastor and was very active in her church. However, she was holding on to a secret. She blurted out that no one, including the priests at her parish, knew that she had had an affair.
She looked at me with sad eyes and said, “My life is over. I cheated on my husband. God can never forgive me and I can never forgive myself.” Perhaps some of you reading this book feel the same. You have had an affair or worse. Many women have had abortions or children out of wedlock. So much pain. So many sins.
I say to you who are in bondage and pain what I told her: “Who is whispering in your ear that you are not forgiven? It cannot be Jesus! He died on the Cross for your sins. He has forgiven you! He wants you to receive that forgiveness and healing!” She began to cry violently. But it was a healing cry. Her eyes were open to the truth. It was the lies of the devil that she had believed! She realized that she had been set free by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! That was a total and complete miracle! Her eyes were opened. The bondage was gone forever!
You have been freed by the same death and resurrection of Our Savior! It is understanding and meditating on this reality that will change your life! So many people are living in bondage. They don’t truly believe that when Jesus died and rose again it set them free if they accept this unconditional gift. That is the “Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Please remember that you are loved unconditionally. God is real, and through our baptism we each have become His adopted son or daughter.
Please forgive yourself for not being perfect. Do not condemn yourself for your past mistakes. Jesus does not condemn you, He loves you despite your past sins and failures.
Make loving and serving God your first priority. Experience the joy that only living in His friendship can offer.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus is real. He died for your sins and rose again. He doesn’t condemn you so why should you condemn yourself?
It is, indeed, a miracle! God’s supernatural intervention has made you free. Forgive yourself now and forever!