As important as being forgiven by God, is becoming forgiving ourselves. Jesus came to bring about the forgiveness of God from all of our willfulness and sins, signifying the conscious transgression of the law of love. Now, once forgiven and given a news beginning, a new opportunity to be in a right relationship with God, we need to be open to carrying out that forgiveness by forgiving others, including ourselves. This is stated right in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” or just as rightly, “Forgive us our transgressions as we forgive those who transgressors against us.” Jesus follows up His great prayer with this caveat: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The sad truth is, unforgiveness is like a black hole in the soul. It will not admit, but sucks away the light of love. Where there is unforgiveness, there is a heart hardening. Heart-hardedness leads to a self-imposed prison, and an inability to experience true freedom or joy. Unforgiving people are unhappy people. Someone said unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.
If you cannot forgive yourself, you cannot love yourself. Likewise, if you cannot forgive another, you cannot love that person, not from the heart, even if you should act loving toward that person.
So, what stops you from forgiving, what keeps you unforgiving of yourself? Guilt, disgust, even hatred toward, if not yourself, then toward something you have done. Perhaps you refuse to forgive yourself because you secretly think you haven’t suffered enough. Possibly you have made a seemingly irreversible decision that you are not a “good” person, not lovable, certainly not if people really knew what was inside you, or what your personal history included.
The truth is, you can only love yourself to the extent that you love that which you least like about yourself. If you say you love “parts” of yourself, you do not really love yourself in total, warts and wanderings and all. Self-love must include self-acceptance. I once wrote:
“Accepting yourself is the most difficult act of faith. Yet until you have, you will not find yourself. For self comes out from its cloister only in the light of affirmation.
“And you will never comprehend yourself. You may but choose whether or not to become who you already are. You will know when you are truly you, for a question you don’t remember asking will be answered, and the sense of self will fill you.”
Unforgiveness toward yourself is connected with unforgiveness toward others. It’s a kind of “chicken and egg” regarding which comes first, but where there is the one, generally there is also the other. Sometimes we don’t forgive ourselves simply because we refuse to forgive others, and we secretly don’t like our unforgiving ways. Strange as it sounds, we can be unforgiving of ourselves because of the virulent presence of unforgiveness of others. What goes around comes around, even in our own hearts.
It would be good to ask yourself whom you have not yet forgiven, and for what reasons. Then ask yourself what those persons would have to do in order for you to let go and forgive. And if they cannot or will not do that, ask yourself why you continue to bear the heart-heavy weight of unforgiveness. Isn’t it time to release it?
Using your imagination, picture a vast mountain, containing a deep and hidden cave. Imagine yourself on that mountain and enter that cave in spirit, bringing all manner of unforgiveness with you, all memories of persons and events which caused you pain.
As best you can, place all your unforgiveness there on the cave floor. You can always come back to retrieve, if you choose. But you can leave that cave forever, and re-emerge into the crisp, pure mountain air, rich in new beginnings. You can again love yourself and others.