Grace for others is not simple, but it seems the most difficult thing in life is to forgive ourselves. Many of us carry secrets of things we regret. Often we struggle to forgive ourselves and live with the peace and freedom God intended.
Sometimes things happen that we can’t control. Other times we have a role in what happened, but are heartbroken looking back.
According to CNN, “2,000 auto accidents a year kill “dart-outs,” incidents in which the driver has no chance to avoid a pedestrian. (The highest percentage of dart-outs are 5-to-9-year-old boys, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.) According to a study, those drivers are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than drunken drivers, says Strauss.”
I can’t imagine the pain and self recrimination these drivers go through, even though they aren’t to blame.
What about those times when we are to blame for something that happened, or some part in a tragedy?
Let me tell you about my high school friend named Joe.
Joe wasn’t well liked. He came to school with smelly, unwashed clothes. He was wiry thin from malnutrition and often smudged dirt blended with the freckles on his face.
Joe was bullied by the football team, taunted by the wrestling team, and ridiculed by the popular girls.
Joe was one of the kindest kids I’d ever met. His smile could light a room and he always knew how to cheer me up.
Joe and I became friends. Little did I know that my friendship gave Joe something to look forward to.
One day I had broken up with my then sweetheart as high school kids do. I was sad and didn’t feel like talking. That day I didn’t say hi to Joe. I didn’t much talk at all. I was so tied up in my own problems.
That was the last day Joe came to school. The following day he dropped out and never came back. I called Joe to talk him into coming back.
When I asked him why he dropped out, Joe said, “You were the only person who ever knew I existed. The day you didn’t say hi, I decided I was done being invisible.”
Many times I asked myself how I could’ve been so self-absorbed. I felt guilt and sorrow. Even today that moment sticks out in my mind and I have to remember that I was just a kid. That kids make choices that aren’t always wise, or kind.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”
There are other things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of, chances are you have too. We cannot change the past, so we must choose to live in the past or accept the future in light of the past. It sounds so simple, but it isn’t.
Many times we need others who can listen, a therapist who can guide us, a pastor or friend who can pray with us. At the end of the day we must choose.
I choose to forgive myself. If we tell ourselves this every morning, eventually it will feel more true. Then the true freedom God intended for us can be ours.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1 (ESV)