Sometimes, we continue to be hard on ourselves long after God has forgiven us.
Jesus suffered for your sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we do something wrong, we can repent—ask God for forgiveness—and become clean again because of Jesus’s sacrifice. Forgiving ourselves is an act of faith in Him.
That doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want because Jesus had already taken care of it. But it does mean that we should have faith and move forward with our lives once we have repented. We shouldn’t dwell on past mistakes.
If we continue to let guilt affect us after we have prayed for forgiveness and done what we can to right our wrongs, we can actually distance ourselves from God.
Sometimes we get the idea that God doesn’t want to talk to us or that we are unworthy to pray. This is not true. God loves all His children and is perfectly willing to forgive when we sincerely repent. When God forgives, it’s like the sin never happened.
It is important to understand that the devil “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (see 2 Nephi 2:27). The misery that comes from guilt hinders our ability to feel the Spirit. God would rather us be serving others and having a good time than feeling gloomy and unclean.
A prophet from the Book of Mormon named Enos wrote about his experience asking God for forgiveness. He prayed all day and night, and finally he heard a voice say, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (see Enos 1:5). The beauty of this story is how Enos reacted. He wrote, “And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (see Enos 1:6).
Enos did not continue to dwell on his mistakes. Instead, he immediately began to pray for the welfare of others. He went from thinking inwardly to thinking about others. Take Enos’s example to heart and learn to quickly move on after you have repented.
Forgiving yourself is a concept supported by medical and mental health professionals. Though often thought of as a religious doctrine, scientific research backs up the benefits of self-forgiveness.
Andrea Brandt, Ph.D. M.F.T., said, “Acknowledge that not everyone is self-aware or empathetic enough to admit they’ve done something wrong. Appreciate that you’re the kind of person who can recognize your faults and mistakes and say, ‘I did this; I am responsible.’ You’ve done something wrong, yes, but at your core, you are a good person” (Psychology Today, Oct. 2017).
Essentially, she is saying that feeling sorry is a good indicator of our character. However, she is quick to point out that “No benefit or good can come from keeping yourself stuck in the disempowering pattern of self-punishment. Punishing yourself doesn’t serve anyone. To serve others and make your own life better, you must forgive yourself.”
If you want to learn more about forgiveness and the role of Jesus Christ, we invite you to meet with Church representatives.
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