You Really Can’t Forgive Yourself

14. Coming to Grips with God’s Grace

For a long time, I have been trying to dispel the notion that somehow we need to be able to forgive ourselves for our past sins. Over and over I have heard people teach this ridiculous principle. This is a humanistic philosophy, not a Biblical one. It is impossible for you to forgive yourself, unless you are the object to against whom you have sinned.

Recently, I heard an illustration that perfectly explains this false idea. Imagine if you owed a great debt to someone. Month after month you struggled to make a payment on that debt until you were overwhelmed with frustration. It was taking a toll on you, both financially and emotionally. One day, you decided to just forgive yourself of this debt which you had created. Unfortunately, you would find out rather quickly that your forgiveness means nothing. You are the debtor, not the creditor: only the creditor can forgive the debt.

When we sin, it is against God, not ourselves. David said, “Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned.” He did not say that he had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, or the children of Israel. No, David sinned against God. Your sin may bring harm to others, but your sin is against God. Your sin may bring harm to yourself, but your sin is against God. You cannot forgive yourself of a sin you committed against God. To say you can, is to say there is no God.

Imagine that one day your creditor called to tell you that he was forgiving your debt. He was going to pay it in full. Now, you have a choice. You can continue to live under the bondage of the debt,and try to pay the debt, or you can accept the forgiveness that your creditor has given you. The same is true with our past sins. We can continue to try and pay the debt for the sins we committed, or we can accept the fact that God paid those debts for us with the blood of His own Son. This does not mean, that you forgive yourself; that means you are living in the forgiveness of your creditor. When we tell someone to forgive themselves, we are literally ignoring God. We are taking God out of the equation. We are debtors to Him and Him alone. He is our creditor. Only he can forgive our past; however, our job is to walk in His forgiveness, not our own.

The next time someone says you just need to forgive yourself, kindly tell them that you cannot forgive yourself, but that your heavenly Father has forgiven you and paid your debt and that you are living in the freedom of HIS forgiveness.