Forgive yourself. Hm. That’s not what we normally talk about, is it? It’s usually about asking for forgiveness or seeking someone else’s forgiveness. And then, there’s that sticky problem of what you are to do when you say to someone, “I have wronged you. I am sorry. Please forgive me,” and they don’t?
Do you ask for their forgiveness again? And, then, again. Then, again. These are all hard ones for me. Clearly, on some of this, we have some direction from the spiritual master who said in response to Saint Peter’s question, “How often do we forgive? Seven times?” And, Jesus answered, “No, seventy times seven.”
In other words, on the 491st offense, you can curse the offender and walk away?
Not really. You cannot take Jesus literally here or you’ve got another problem. You can, however, take what he says seriously. Very serious, in fact.
What Jesus was saying is this:
There are no limits to forgiveness. God’s grace is so radically different from human justice systems that when Jesus was betrayed, he loved his betrayer…when denied, he loved his denier…when forsaken, he loved those who forsook him…when tortured, he loved his torturers…when murdered, he loved his murderers. (From, Progressive Christianity, Charting a New Reformation, Part XVIII, p. 5).
So, yes, this much is clear, albeit difficult.
But what about those times when you are the one seeking forgiveness? When you’ve wronged another, you know it, or they point it out to you, and you confess you’re wrong, ask for their forgiveness, and, while they say with their lips they have forgiven you, their actions say otherwise. They ignore you, move on, and/or convey to you that they want nothing more to do with you?
I think there comes a point at which you yourself must let go of the need to continually seek their friendship, not their forgiveness. Is there a point at which you let go of the need for a relationship with them? If you have tried to go forward with them, but your overtures are met with resistance or outright avoidance, then to keep pursuing a relationship indicates, does it not, that there is in you that needs their approval, love, acceptance?
Which may mean you have not fully forgiven yourself to that point where you can lay it down and move on with your life.
I have found myself in this very place a time or two in my own life. At those times, when I have looked closely within, I have discovered that, while the one I have offended may have their own issues with forgiveness, there is only so much I can do about them or for them. But there may be much I can do about me and for me.
When you have offended another, and you know it, yes, express your apologies, ask for forgiveness. What happens beyond you is beyond your control, though, isn’t it? Whether your apology is accepted, forgiveness is offered, and a friendship rekindled or extended, is beyond your control.
What happens in you, on the other hand, is in your control, isn’t it? I think so. It doesn’t make any of this easy. But it may just point you toward that place inside yourself that needs forgiving. That needs YOUR forgiveness.
He who asks for forgiveness is free.
He who cannot forgive himself is in bondage still.
What needs forgiving inside yourself?