Yep, you read that right. I will no longer “forgive myself.” I will no longer “give myself grace.” No, I haven’t embraced some radical legalism or harsh perfectionism. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that it’s impossible. It sounds good, and I’ve read countless “motherhood” articles, many of them truly inspiring, that tell me the cure to “mommy guilt” or any guilt is to forgive myself, that the cure to exhausting perfectionism is to give myself the grace to fail. At times, I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of saying the same things.
But as I’ve been journaling through Ephesians, I’ve come to realize just how defeating and impossible this can be. Oh, I understand what we mean when we use these phrases, and I agree that we should stop beating ourselves up and placing unrealistic expectations of perfection on ourselves. However, the answer is not to forgive myself or to give myself grace. Let me explain the journey I’ve been on, the reason I’m no longer using these phrases.
Why I can’t and won’t be forgiving myself any longer
1. It’s not my place. When I attempt to forgive myself or offer grace to myself, I am putting myself above God, as if what He has to offer is not enough. It’s not enough that God has forgiven me, I need to forgive myself. His sufficient grace is not quite sufficient; I need to pitch in and give myself some grace. Again, I know what we intend when we make these statements, but I’m just realizing how terribly wrong we are. Only God’s forgiveness matters: I need to accept His forgiveness. Only His grace is sufficient: I need to receive His grace.
2. It’s not in my power. The only one who can forgive is the one who has been wronged. In other words, I can’t forgive myself unless I’ve wronged myself. But that isn’t the case; it doesn’t even make sense. Instead, I’ve wronged others and/or I’ve wronged God Himself. In both instances, forgiveness happens out of the abundance of God’s forgiveness through Christ. Sometimes it’s tough to accept the forgiveness of God or others. Sometimes we feel as though we need to punish ourselves, to feel that guilt for what we have done. But that’s a lie! Christ has already suffered for that sin. Was His suffering not enough? Was it incomplete somehow? I need to, instead, accept the forgiveness freely given to me and not feel as though I need to prove myself or earn it in some way.
I don’t need to “forgive myself.” I need to accept God’s forgiveness freely given to me through Christ.
3. It’s not possible. Bottom line. I don’t have the resources or the ability to extend grace or forgiveness to myself; it’s not mine to allocate to myself. As I’ve studied Ephesians 1, this keeps jumping out to me. Over and over God is described as rich in grace, rich in mercy. In Christ, we have access to all the treasures of heaven. My role is not to ration it out to others and be sure to save enough back for myself. No! You don’t ration boundless, endless wealth. In and of myself, I have no grace to give to myself. And why would I take any credit for the boundless grace God has given? I don’t need to give myself grace. I need to receive His.
Why am I making such a big deal about this?
Because when I use these words, I’m taking credit for God’s work. When I use these word, I rob God of His glory. And because when I use these words, I continue the endless cycle of helpless guilt this creates in my life. I’m already feeling regret and shame over all the ways I’ve fallen short. If only I could forgive myself. But how do I do this? Are there magic words I utter or a ceremony I go through? Is it a feeling I conjure up? Do you see? I’ve set myself up for yet another failure. Now, I can’t even forgive myself.
But if I look at this Biblically, the gift is already given. The Bible lays out a clear path to receive this grace and forgiveness. And it’s simple. Ask and you will receive. On my worst day, I can manage that. Not because of my inner strength and grit, but because my God is the Giver of all good gifts. He’s a good, good Father.
So will you join with me? Together, let’s decide to do this right. Let’s commit together that we will no longer forgive ourselves and instead receive the riches of what God has given to us.