Is It Biblical to “Forgive Yourself?”
Hi Pastor – I need some help understanding something. I heard someone say the other day that biblically we need to ‘forgive ourselves.’ Where in the Bible does it say that? I thought that God needs to forgive us. They also seemed to say that we ‘deserve’ to forgive ourselves. What does that mean? That sounds like a bunch of counseling mumbo jumbo being passed off as biblical. Can you help me out here?
Hi My Friend -
I think you may misunderstand or come in with a bias on this one. It all depends on how you look at it.
Although technically mercy and grace are by definition ‘undeserved’ (which may be a technical point, but not likely the intention of the person you heard from), We “deserve” (meaning it’s appropriate for us) God’s mercy and grace because Jesus Christ died on the cross and exchanged our lives for His. Therefore it is His life in us that is appropriate to receive God’s mercy and grace (the point I think of the comment you heard/read). When we are saved we are in a new union with Christ and all of His perfection is transferred to our account.
On the second point, “Forgiving ourselves”, which I agree is more of a counseling term, is actually accurate, but speaks more to emotional health (which is very important). There is no difference biblically with forgiving others and forgiving yourself. If one is legitimate, then the other is legitimate as well. One was caused by sin or hurt and so was the other.
To refuse to allow God’s forgiveness of yourself (which is forgiving yourself through His eyes) is wrong. To ‘forgive yourself’ simply means that you accept that you are a fallen human being and have made poor decisions, but that Jesus Christ died to cleanse you from those sinful choices that have caused you pain. Once you realize that you are a work in progress and that God is working even in your mess, then you can forgive yourself and not hold yourself to an unrealistic standard .
To say that it’s not important because it’s not spelled out in the Bible is like saying that 8 hrs of sleep is a bad idea because God didn’t specify in Scripture, or that drinking plenty of water to keep hydrated isn’t a good idea since it’s not written down. There are plenty of truths that the Bible affirms without having to spell it out for us. However, since we are on the subject, the premise of forgiving ourselves is demonstrated by:
- Rom 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
- Rom 2:15 – “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them …”
- Psalm 25:18 – “Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.” (David called out for forgiveness a ton of times knowing full well that God had forgiven him already. He was having a hard time moving on (just like he begged God to not harm him when God wasn’t harming him. His mindset was wrong).
- Matt 6:12 – ” and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (are we not our own debtors in many cases)
- Mark 11:25 – “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (are we not ‘anyone’?)
And passages like that.
I hope this helps clear things up. I know that sometimes we have a reaction to hearing terms used in secular counseling and automatically think that God has another viewpoint, but honestly some of them line up very well. Let’s not jump to conclusions until we understand the situation (which you are trying to do – nicely done!)
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