Forgiveness has never been an issue for me, or so I thought. To begin with, I have no problem forgiving others easily. After all, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans chapter 3, verse 23). No one is perfect and I have never expected anyone to be perfect.
When we know that people are not perfect to start with, it makes shortcomings more acceptable. Not that we do not expect the best from others, but knowing that nobody will be able to please everyone all the time preempts us to be more understanding if things do go wrong and we feel let down.
When I let myself down
Unfortunately the same is often less true when it comes to myself. We may well be our harshest critics and go the hardest on ourselves. Despite being lenient to others, I find that I hold different standards for myself. Rightly so in a sense because we are responsible for ourselves.
However, I have recently come to question if that isn’t actually being double standard. Do I not see myself as a mere human too? Undoubtedly, I am no exception myself.
We are all humans; humans who have all sinned. You, he, she, they, even we and definitely I included. Another version of the Bible records the aforementioned verse in this manner,
‘For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.’
Why would I be any different from others if I too am a human? We should never expect ourselves to be perfect without mistakes. Yet when we do, we treat it as though it’s inexcusable. It is almost like we actually think that we should never make a mistake; as if others can and will but I should never.
However the Bible clearly tells us in both the old testament in Ecclesiastes chapter 7, verse 20 that 'indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins’, as well as in the new testament in James chapter 3, verse 2 that ‘for we all stumble in many ways.’
What to do
The first step to forgiving ourselves is to perhaps acknowledge the mistakes we have done and not to turn on our defensive scripts. When we seek to justify our mistakes, we are simply trying to create a sound excuse which in itself is an oxymoron. There can never be a solid excuse for our mistakes.
Owning up to it and plainly acknowledging it is probably the better way to go. Smothering it up would only plunge us down a spiral trap of self-righteousness, denial, guilt then self-pity.
Since owning up denies us the chance to wallow, it forces us to be responsible for our mistakes and propels us forward. We understand the damage done, thus work to rectify it by moving on while bearing in mind the mistake without allowing it to swallow us.
Striving to do our best
Having said all these, I’m not making up excuses for the mistakes that we do. In no way am I ever suggesting that we do not need to give our best just because we aren’t perfect. Rather, because of our imperfections, there is all the more the reason why we need to rely on God for only He is perfect.
‘I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back (Philippians chapter 3, verses 12-14).
We need to learn to be bold in spite of our mistakes, not because of who we are but because of what God has done, hence in spite of what we’ve done, but because of who God is.
I forgive ME. Do you forgive YOU?
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html