Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Forgiving Ourselves

I spent years rehashing what had happened in my first marriage. Questioning myself with a judging spirit. Why had I married an abusive spouse? What was wrong with me? Didn't I see signs of warning each time I reviewed our story? How could I have been so stupid?

Have you ever gone there? Judging yourself based on hindsight? Condemning yourself to self-criticism and lowered self-respect?

With God's help, I realized about six years ago that with my refusal to forgive myself I wasn't showing much faith in Jesus' effectiveness as my savior. It was as if I was saying, "Lord, what you did when you died on the cross for our sins was great. It saved everybody. I am so glad that you forgive me, but I have made some mistakes and committed some sins that are unforgivable in my eyes. So I am going to keep punishing myself for the sins you say are covered and taken care of already." There's a perverse pride in this kind of thinking.

Who was I to reject God's verdict? He has declared me forgiven (John 3:16) and righteous (Romans 5:16) in Christ Jesus. I am mixing things up when I put my judgment and self-punishment above God's judgment and mercy. God's mercy flowed freely again as I realized what I had been doing and repented. I can testify that living under God's grace is a far more pleasant path than playing judge over myself. His forgiveness is stunning--and so complete.

God and a kind counselor also helped me see I had a tendency to take on false guilt that really belonged to the abuser. I still tended to blame myself for all abuse that had occurred. I still carried a heavy load of shame. I had unloaded some shame as I recovered, a little bit at a time. This year it has been as if I have unloaded a huge truck load of shame that had still found places to hide inside of my heart, mind, and soul. It is delightful to be separated from that junk. I can see clearly now that in God's perspective the shame of abuse was never mine to carry.

Perhaps, you recognize that you haven't forgiven yourself either. Perhaps you are hard on yourself for not heeding warning signs or for taking too long to end the abuse. Or maybe you've wrongly condemned yourself for things that could not be your fault. Talk to God about it in prayer. He loves you. He would love to see you stop punishing yourself; if you confess, he forgives you (1 John 1:9). He invites you to let go of the "false" guilt issues you may be lugging around; he wants us to let Him carry all of our anxieties (1Peter 5:7). We have nothing to fear anymore (Romans 8:15).



Anonymous said...

I am coming out of an abusive marriage of only seven months. I praise the Lord that I was able to be pulled out of that emotionally abusive situation. I am a male, who has carried a lot of my wife's shame and guilt coming from her abuse to me. I was labeled the one who was the abuser by her, but in reality I was the abused. I had to admit that she was not walking as the Christian that she claimed to be. I was controlled and coerced into giving up all contact with church friends and family because she said that was what a godly husband would do for his wife. I was misled. Thanks to God for leading me into forgiveness and freedom for myself. A better understanding of who our Sovereign Lord is and how He protects us from abusers. Praise Him.

Tanya T. Warrington said...

Anonymous reader, thank you for leaving a comment. I pray that God will continue to free you from emotional abuse. It is never good when someone isolates us by controlling and coercing us to give up friends and family. It just isn't healthy.

I join you in thanking God for leading you in forgiveness and freedom. God cares and I know He will continue to help you as you sort out the pieces.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft