How Can I Ever Forgive Myself?


Arms crossed and leaning back, he glared at me from the last row—brooding, narrowed eyes openly questioning my words.

This was my first time to speak before a Celebrate Recovery group. I knew that these brave hurting men and women sitting before me were there because they wanted to rise above their circumstances. They had been wounded by too many wrong choices in life, choices made either by themselves or others. They also knew their only hope to build a new life is through a higher power. Fortunately, they didn’t have to speculate as to the source of that power. At each meeting, leaders clearly proclaimed that only God, through the love of Jesus Christ, can change people and free them from their past.

Following my talk, I watched from the corner of my eye as this huge recently-paroled felon lumbered toward me. I tried not to be distracted by his tattoos and body piercings.

“Ms. Chappell,” he began softly, his sad eyes looking down at me beneath wild bushy, gray-tinged brows. “In your speech you said that not only are we to forgive others, but we must also forgive ourselves—but I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’ve done some terrible things” he said, lowering his eyes.

“The important question is has God forgiven you?”

“Yes,” he mumbled.

With raised brows, I asked “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely!” He responded, looking me straight in the eyes.

I was quiet for a moment before asking “Do you think you are greater than God?”

“Of course not—no one is greater than God!”

“And yet, you think your sins are so big and bad that not even God—the Creator of the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords—can forgive you but is unable to keep His promise to never hold them against you again! Don’t you think that is arrogant?”

Stunned, he stammered, “I never thought of it that way. I know in my head that God forgave me but why do I still feel so guilty?”

“Who do you think is reminding you? God’s word says when He forgives our sins He will “remember them no more”—meaning He doesn’t literally forget them but will never bring them up again. Think about it,” I continued, “If God doesn’t want you to dwell on your past wrongs, who is reminding you?”

He scratched his bushy head, contemplating that question.

“It’s your enemy, Satan” I explained. “He knows you are free now and belong to God forever because Christ emancipated you. But Satan also knows if he can keep you burdened down in the cotton fields of guilt, you’ll be distracted from your freedom to pursue all the wonderful things God has planned for you.”

“But what can I do to stop feeling guilty?”

“I’ll tell you what I do. I say “Thank you, Satan! By dragging up those old wrongs, you just reminded me of how much God loves me.’ Then I say, ‘Thank you again, Heavenly Father, for removing all of those sins from me forever!’ Satan hates hearing God praised, so he leaves. Each time he reminds me of things I wish I hadn’t done, I thank God again. Satan isn’t stupid, so he rarely reminds me anymore, knowing what will happen. Does that make sense?”

Brightening, the man grinned broadly. “It sure does! Thank you so much!” he exclaimed, pumping my hand vigorously.

As he walked away, I noted he no longer slumped but walked straight and tall.

– Kitty Chappell

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9 KJV

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:12 KJV

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new. –Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV