I was thinking...
“If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can now do it for just about everybody else. If you have not done it for yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness, absurdity, judgment, and futility to others. This is the tragic path of the many elderly people who have not become actual elders, probably because they were never eldered or mentored themselves.” (Falling Upward, Richard Rohr, P.114)
Have we forgiven ourselves? “Every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). Perhaps we are aware of our sinful nature and have asked God’s forgiveness and are even assured of this holy forgiveness…but have we forgiven ourselves?
I am certain that most have heard of the Little League Dad. This is the father who vicariously lives his unrealized baseball dreams through his son or daughter. I have coached Little League and Dixie League baseball, so I know a little about ‘Little League Dads’. Let me simply say, they can be a pain in the proverbial backside. There is something about unrealized dreams and/or expectations that can create an unhealthy context for those gathered around us in family and friend relationships. If this is true in sports, just think how deep this can run with soul matters.
As a pastor across the years, I have heard this statement all too often, “Preacher, I accept that God has forgiven me. It is forgiving myself that is my struggle. Can you help me forgive myself?” This puts the preacher, the friend, the confidant, the counselor in a very sacred space that is critical for another person’s soul development. Should that person be a person of influence in the family (i.e., parent, sibling, etc.) or with other significant relationships, then the outcome of this honest struggle can impact other’s soul development as well. In other words, this is important stuff.
If I am a person who is constantly angry; or if I am a person who is constantly alienating others and have a long list of those who used to be my friends; or if I am a person who can only see the glass of life half-empty; or if I am a person who is always skeptical; or if I am a person who is most often negative… then there is a very good chance there is something in me that I am covering up with a belief that I don’t deserve to forgive myself. Unforgiven people most often carry a sense of loathe about themselves. Is this me? Is this you?
Look around you. If you have experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness and it has empowered you to forgive yourself, then you will be able to see those who’ve yet been able to know this joy…not in a judging way but in a discerning way. If you still struggle to forgive yourself about some behavior or lack of behavior, then you may very well be blind to see it around you. Why? Because you are so busy convincing yourself that you aren’t worthy of such self-forgiveness that you can’t believe others are either… so chances are you’ll not accept or believe the reality in front of you found in someone else.
This forgiveness thing can seem tricky while it really is simple faith. I have found when I have trouble forgiving someone else or myself a simple prayer helps. “Kind God, I am finding it difficult to forgive this person or that person or myself about (name it). Would you forgive them through me? I am willing to let you do through me what I am finding impossible to do by myself. Thanks for your help, loving God. In Jesus name, Amen!”
“Jesus was blunt: ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.’” (Mark 10:27, The Message)
It is not just my soul at stake but the souls of those I love as well. Maybe for you, too?
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop