The Hardest Person to Forgive

I forgave myself. When God forgave me, I figured I’d better do it, too. —Johnny Cash 

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. —Psalm 103:12 NLT 

It’s tough to be our own worst critic. To obsess over mistakes that everyone else seems willing to overlook. To be haunted by past failures long after others have forgotten them. To see someone we don’t respect every time we look in the mirror. 

Yet that’s what happens when guilt breaks free of its boundaries and runs rampant in our lives. We begin to fixate on the things we do wrong. We lose sight of God’s grace. We find ourselves surrounded by reminders of our failures and bad choices. 

The problem is compounded when our actions impact others. We face the anger, pain, and disappointment of the people we hurt. We must confront the broken trust and broken relationships that result. If we’re not careful, our guilt and shame can overrun us. 

Yet that’s not what God wants. Not by a long shot. 

In its proper place, guilt accomplishes a very important work. It serves as a warning to us that something is in the way of our relationship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit, who lives inside every Christian, speaks to us through our conscience, making us aware of things we’ve done. 

He prompts us to ask God for forgiveness and then do the same with anyone who’s been hurt by our actions. Once that work is done, once we sincerely seek forgiveness from God and others, guilt no longer has any place in our life. God sets the parameters for us in Psalm 103. “As far as the east is from the west” is about as far as you can get. Yet that’s how far God removes our sin from us—in His eyes. If we were to approach Him after being forgiven and ask, “God, do You remember when I—?” His response would be, “No, I don’t.” He chooses not to remember it. 

So when we choose to remember it, when we insist on beating ourselves up for things in our past, when we refuse to let go of our guilt, we’re actually holding ourselves to a higher standard than God uses. And we’re missing out on one of the most glorious gifts that God offers. 

When we learn to forgive ourselves, we start to see ourselves as God sees us. When we clear away the guilt and shame that no longer serve any purpose, we discover the potential hidden underneath. Self-loathing gets in the way of every good thing God has in store for us. Forgiveness frees us to be the people He intends us to be. 

Forgiving ourselves makes it easier for us to forgive others. Grace and understanding, two of the most important tools for relationship-building, become more accessible to us. We’re better able to empathize with other people’s struggles to forgive themselves and more inclined to help them in their journey. So, in learning to forgive ourselves, we become better spouses, parents, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. 

Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving me when I stumble and for giving me a fresh start. Give me the wisdom to know how to set things right and how to make necessary changes in my life. Let Your Spirit work in my heart so that I can forgive myself and see myself as You see me. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

This is an excerpt from Walking the Line: 90 Devotions of Truth and Hope Based on the Faith of Johnny Cash a new devotional now available on Shop all books, journals, and devotions from DaySpring here.