“I just can’t forgive myself.”

I have heard this said by women who have done horrible things, things they completely regret, things that haunt them, things that they just can’t seem to let go of and move on from.

And I totally get this.  I have huge regrets in my life.  A ton of choices that I would give anything to be able to go back and redo.  I’m confident that with my wisdom, gained afterwards, I’d choose differently.

But there is no going back.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I no longer believe in Plan B.  So I obsess over the wrong choice or the sin and I kick myself and wonder what ifand carry the guilt and shame around with me as if it’s tethered to my back.

So I totally get the concept of ‘not being able to forgive oneself’, but I don’t believe in it.  I don’t believe the words are right.

I believe wholeheartedly that when someone claims that she cannot forgive herself – over her divorce or her affair or her abortion or staying too long in an abusive situation or what-have-you – that what she really means is that she cannot truly believe that God has forgiven her or is even able to.  That what she has done has fallen just outside the boundaries of the grace of God.

We don’t want to word it this way though because we know how that sounds.  It sounds like we’re saying we don’t believe the Word of God is true when it says that we will be forgiven of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).  It sounds like we’re saying that we think God therefore is a liar.  It sounds like we’re saying that what Jesus did on the cross was all good and fine, and that he died for the sins of the world, and that his death conquered and killed sin, just not oursOur sin was too bad.  And we don’t want to sound like this is what we’re saying.

But if I have done something really awful, and I am sincerely sorrowful over it, and I have asked Christ to forgive me, I am forgiven.

There is nothing else to add to the equation.  Self-flogging is not part of the deal.  God didn’t say that he’d send Christ to die for us and we also need to beat ourselves up for a little while/a few years/the rest of our lives and then we’ll be forgiven.  Nope, it’s just the Jesus part.

And there’s nothing that falls just outside of what was nailed to the cross.  God isn’t up there thinking, “Oh crud, she did that?! Because I didn’t make provisions for that…now what am I going to do with her?  I guess she’ll just have to live with the guilt.”  Uh-uh, all of sin was taken out.  All of your sin was covered over.  Even that really, really bad thing you did.

So, you’ve got a secret?  Are you carrying around guilt?  There’s really only one thing to do.  Go to God about it.  Ask him once and for all to forgive you, but then ask him to help you experience the forgiveness, to feel the forgiveness, to choose to know it to be true even when you don’t feel it.  And then, sweet girl, walk in it.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

John 8:10-11


If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.


Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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