A topic that comes up often with my clients is the subject of self-forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong, and the constant mental beating we give ourselves afterwards. We’ll say or do something, recognize after the fact (or sometimes while we’re saying or doing it) that this is wrong, and even though we ask for forgiveness from the person and/or from God, we continue to castigate ourselves again and again for what we did. Sound familiar? I know this mental beating well as I’ve done it to myself.
I think we beat ourselves up because forgiving ourselves just seems too easy. Asking God to forgive us seems too easy, or impossible if we can’t forgive ourselves. We need to continue to chastise ourselves to make sure that we are adequately punished. The result is that we live with this cloud of self-loathing or self-blame over our heads and it controls everything we do. We become afraid to get involved in a new relationship because we can’t forgive ourselves for the pain we caused in our past relationship. We can’t go deeper in current relationships out of fear. We become too cautious in our lives for fear that we will “mess up again” and our self-confidence plummets which affects our work and our lives. We can also become depressed or anxious. And we can find ourselves becoming separate from God.
When I “mess up”, I have to look at myself as to why I did that and then continue to work to change that in myself that causes me to do wrong. This is where therapy can be helpful. I also need to recognize that I am an imperfect human, and while I was created in the likeness and image of God, I was also born with the stain of original sin in me. This does not mean that I shouldn’t strive to not do wrong. Just the opposite; I should strive to live my life as God asks me to. It just means that when I make mistakes and when I sin, I go before God and ask for his forgiveness and his help to not do this again, and when I receive this forgiveness, I accept it and allow myself to move forward again in healing and not fear.
My priest once said about confession…”We go to confession and our sins are forgiven, and yet we are unable to forgive ourselves. By not forgiving ourselves, we are saying that we are greater than God. Our forgiveness of our sins is greater than God’s forgiveness of our sins.” This caused me to stop and think because this is what I do when I can’t let go of what I’ve asked God to forgive me for.
If you are struggling with beating yourself up, self-blame and an inability to forgive yourself, talk to me as I want to help. i work from a faith-based perspective to bring in God’s forgiveness while also trying to help you understand the psychological hold that not forgiving yourself has on you and how to change it. Give me a call at 720-707-9119. Jane McGill Clinical Counseling