When You Can’t Forgive Yourself

Do you ever struggle to move beyond your personal failures and wrong choices? Maybe you have been able to forgive your offenders, yet are stuck when it comes to forgiving yourself. Or you may feel defeated because you’ve messed up in the same area. Again. Or maybe there are events you replay in your mind, trying to imagine the better outcomes that would have happened…if only you’d made a better choice.

Maybe someone you love is wrestling to forgive themselves. Their self accusation and hatred is standing in the way of the healing they are in need of. How can you reach out to help them? What is the best way to bring life and light into this area of darkness?

Each of us are living in a broken world. We are broken. Broken people hurt others. Broken people make wrong choices. And some of those choices hurt the ones we love the most. When that happens, it’s important that we are able to begin the process of finding healing for our own pain and healing from our long list of regrets.

During our prison ministry, we’ve had many inmates tell us that they’ve been able to forgive everyone else except themselves. Can you identify with this? Do you battle with letting go of the past and moving beyond your failures? If so, let me assure you that you’re not alone in your struggle. Each of us have dark moments in our lives where we wish—oh, how we wish—we would’ve made other choices.

In my own life, I seem to struggle with regrets every year when October comes around. I have to again face the emotions that surround the death of our precious son. Although I firmly believe that cold October day was God’s time for Austin to go, I still contend with thoughts like:

“Why didn’t we just take him to the hospital that night rather than taking the advice of the doctor to wait until the next morning?” 

“How could I be baking a PIE when Austin was—as we didn’t realize—on his deathbed?!” 

“How could I be sleeping, oblivious to the fact that my firstborn was breathing his last breath?”  

This hurts. Deeply.

And this doesn’t include all the other regrets that typically accompany the loss of a loved one.

In reality, we truly thought we were doing what was absolutely the best for Austin. He was sick with what we thought was a stomach bug. And he seemed to improve that last evening, so we decided to see how he felt the next morning. We were in touch with the doctor, but neither us nor the doctors were aware of what was going on in his body.

As I’ve battled these thoughts over the years, God has reminded me that HE has forgiven me of every bad decision I’ve made. God also reminded me that the reason I was making peanut butter pie (Austin’s favorite!) was because I wanted to have something special for my family to eat. I made it sugar and dairy free so Austin could enjoy it. He’s also reminded me of the many intense moments and sleepless nights I sacrificed over the sixteen years of Austin’s physical challenges. And that I’d gladly do it all over again.

As I face these searingly painful emotions, God continues to speak into my spirit. He gives me the grace to face my regrets, and lovingly speaks His truth into the lies I’m believing. If the great God of the universe has forgiven me for every wrong decision, why would I choose to carry this heavy load of regret? But I really don’t need to forgive myself when God has already forgiven me. 

You may have hurt someone deeply by the words you’ve said. So have I. Go make it right with them. Today. Don’t play the blame game or allow bitterness to destroy you. Maybe you are haunted by an accident that was “your fault.” Tell God that you’re sorry but move on, and don’t let that define who you are. We are all at fault at many times every day. Maybe your carelessness or lack of responsibility harmed someone you love. Again…ask for forgiveness, learn from it, but then ask God to show you what He thinks of you.

Remember the story of Lazarus in the Bible? After Jesus brought him back to life, he removed his grave clothes. It would’ve been foolish for Lazarus to continue being bound by these stinky rags of death and defeat after God brought restoration and life to him. The same is true in our lives. Let’s take off the rags of regret and walk in the freedom and forgiveness that is there for us. God doesn’t see us as who we used to be, but He sees us for who we are today. Join me in walking freely rather than stumbling over our past regrets.

~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)

  • Jerry Rubono
    Posted at 22:02h, 26 October

    Cindy, I have struggled in the past about bad decisions, not continuing with my education, previous divorce, unethical behavior. I often say to an inmate, the only difference between you and me is you got caught. but now if I look back, I can use every decision I made, good or bad, as a learning experience and can often use them in our ministry with children and in the Prisons. Jesus died in my place, He paid the price for my bad choices and sin’s past, present and future. I confessed and repented of my sin sought forgiveness and made restitution where possible now I am free to use my choices and experiences to feel the pain or joy of others and can relate to and encourage those I minister to. God has blessed me with a clear conscience, thanks be to God. Amen

  • Cindy
    Posted at 12:36h, 31 October

    And what a blessing God’s forgiveness is to us, Jerry! Only He can take sinners like ourselves and make us new creatures, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Thank you for your testimony and for allowing God to use you and your failures to reach out and minister to others. Praise the Lord!

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