5 Steps To Showing Yourself Grace
If you're anything like me, you mess up. A lot.
And if you're anything like me, you focus on it, obsess over it, wondering how you could have avoided it. Long after others have forgotten what you did wrong, you still let it plague you.
But friends, that's shame. It's one thing to feel guilt about something, to feel bad about something you've done. It's another to feel shame, to let your sins become your identity, to let them define who you are.
If you're anything like me, you do OK at extending grace to others. But extending grace to yourself is a whole different story. So here are a few ways to help you forgive yourself, because I know you'd forgive your friend if they did the same things.
1. Remember that you're a sinner.
This might seem like a weird thing to tell yourself when you're already feeling down, but it's the truth. It's part of our stories, part of who we are. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us. Me, you, the super Christian girl who seems so perfect, your pastor, your parents. EVERYONE. You are very much not alone. Paul said it this way: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7:18-19). Even when we strive to do what is good and what is right, we often fail. It's important to remember this.
2. Remember that God forgave you.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is DEATH. In the Old Testament, when God's people sinned, he brought his wrath down upon them. Think of the world when Noah was building the ark – a world so unholy that God drowned them in a horrendous flood. That is the death we deserve as sinners. But in His mercy, God didn't leave us there, on that side of the cross. He made a way for us through Jesus, even before we loved Him or chose Him (Romans 5:8). Again, Paul says that "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.." (Romans 8:3). God condemned SIN in the flesh, not US (Romans 8:1). The work has been done, and it was done for YOU. Sometimes I forget that part, that "the sins of the world" included my sins. It includes yours, too. And if a perfect and holy God can forgive us, we should forgive ourselves, too.
3. Saturate yourself with Truth.
You might notice that there's a lot of scriptural references in this post, and a lot of them (all?) are from Romans, which is all about our being justified by God's grace. But there are verses throughout the bible that speak of God's love and mercy and grace. Put them everywhere. Read them. Remind yourself, even if you have a hard time believing it. Truth is truth, your belief doesn't change it. And eventually, if you read it enough, your faith will grow.
4. Treat yourself how you would treat a friend.
It's such a privilege when our friends confide in us. I always consider it an honor when someone chooses me to walk through brokenness with them, to tell me their secrets, to ask for my advice. It's a gift that I try not to take lightly. And when a friend comes to me struggling with sin or something they've done, my first instinct isn't to chastise them. It's to love them and remind them of who they are. That's what we're commanded to do – "restore [them] in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1). So why, when I do something, do I berate myself, if I wouldn't do it to a friend? This is a question I'm still looking for the answer to (so if you've answered it, please, comment below and TELL ME!). What I do know is that what God says about me and what my friends say about me doesn't always match up with what I say about me. When I find myself giving myself a hard time, I back up, pretend that I'm talking to a friend, and it forces me to treat myself with kindness and grace.
5. Ask God to help you forgive yourself.
1 John 5:14 says, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us." God doesn't want us trapped in brokenness and shame, so if we ask Him to free us, He will. Sometimes, we need to be freed from ourselves. I know that God wants me to bring my burdens to Him and leave them there. Holding onto guilt and shame and constantly reminding ourselves of how awful we are means we might have brought our junk to the cross, but it also means that we left with it. I picture myself sitting at the feet of God, a backpack of the ugly parts of my heart unpacked around me. When I leave, I often see myself picking that stuff up and carrying it away with me. And it's heavy. So when I bring things to God, I ask Him to help me leave it there.
Friend, the gospel is for you. Freedom is for you. God made a way. Christ did the work. You have to accept it.