Forgive Yourself

According to the Mayo Clinic, “By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.” And we should, “Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

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Forgiving yourself can give you peace. God forgives us when we ask. Jesus died for our sins and washed us clean. The step of forgiving yourself can be difficult.

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When I was little, around Junior High age, I told a couple lies about people to others. I had such guilt over it that my stomach cramped, and I thought sure I was going to Hell until I made it right. The only thing that would give me relief was confessing to the person that I had lied. It was embarrassing, but I did it, and afterwards I felt cleansed of the sin.

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That’s how I feel now, as I grapple with the “sin” of not spending enough time with my son before he died. The only thing is that I can’t ask him for forgiveness now that he’s gone, so I have to just forgive myself. But that means accepting reality, and that is hard.

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You may argue this, but I think it’s easier to forgive others than ourselves. It’s easier to ask God for forgiveness because we know His promises of it and we believe them. It takes loving kindness toward ourselves to forgive.  We know we are our own worst critics.

I have said before that forgiveness is a gift. Why can’t I give myself this gift? And part of acceptance is forgiving- I have to accept that Tyler died before we had the chance to talk about everything, but in order to do that I have to forgive myself.

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It hurts to try to control things that we cannot control, but surrender is a greater Christian value than control. It’s going from playing God, judge jury, to seeking God. A concept of Christian Cognitive Behavior Therapy is Forgiveness Intervention. It is seeking the help of a loved one or therapist to help you through forgiving yourself and knowing that God is the one who completes the work of forgiveness in our hearts.

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As I am writing this, I wish I could follow my own advice! I would give anything not to feel the way I do about myself.

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My therapist and I are working on this. Self-blame is a cognitive distortion when we blame ourselves for things we may not be entirely responsible for. One of the ways we talked about is to make a list of the things I want to forgive myself for and pray for each of them separately. We also decided I would write a letter to Tyler and send it up in a balloon.

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You have to develop your forgiveness capacity, and one way to do this might be reading about forgiveness in the Bible. Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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I will also write a letter to God, falling on His promises for forgiveness and asking Him to help me forgive myself.

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“You Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to ALL who call to you.”
Psalm 86:5

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If God forgives ALL of us and loves us even with our sins, and if I strive to be like Jesus, then I must forgive myself and love myself, for that is His command. I am working hard at this. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says radical acceptance is not pretending it didn’t happen or avoiding the issue, it is recognizing, all the way, with mind, body, soul, that something happened and deciding to accept it as fact.

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Acceptance is not allowing the suffering to accompany the pain of an event. It’s not ruminating on what could have been but accepting what is.

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There will be time for me to show my abundant love for Tyler when I am in Heaven. There is time now for me to show my love by writing him letters and everyday thinking about how much I love him. It is real- this love. It is a fact. I love my son regardless of anything else I may have or have not done. God knows this, and I know it.

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