Forgiveness and Joy
For years I’ve heard people talk about the need to “love yourself” before you can love others. I’ve struggled with that because it seems like a lot of the world’s woes are linked to people who love themselves too much – too much selfishness, too much pride, too much egoism, too much greed.
The fact is, those attitudes don’t stem from too much self-love. They are actually manifestations of guilt, shame, regret, fear, and low self-esteem.
I’ve come to see that healthy self-love is critical to our souls, our communities, and our planet. The concept of forgiveness is one practical way to start loving ourselves. As I see it, there are at least four dimensions to forgiveness.
1. Forgive yourself: When I think of the bonehead moves I have made over the years it makes me cringe. I’ve been mean, petty, dishonest, and selfish. But what’s done is done and I can’t change the past. The Jeff Spadafora of back then was operating out of a different worldview. Wishing things were different is a waste of time and emotional energy.
2. Ask God’s Forgiveness: Deep in my heart I have acknowledged to God that my past was not consistent with the flow of love that He is trying to spread through the model of Jesus and the presence of his Spirit. I’ve sincerely apologized for going against that flow and I don’t keep going over that territory again and again. Of course, I confess and repent for the new daily sins I commit, and then rejoice knowing God’s pleased that I am growing in love.
3. Forgive Others: This could be the trickiest dimension of forgiveness. I have heard peoples’ stories and am shocked at the abuse and betrayal they have suffered. I honestly don’t know if I could bring myself to forgive in those circumstances. For many people who are able to forgive, they say it’s one of the clearest signs of God’s strength because they could never have done it under their own human strength. Forgiving others is also one of the best forms of loving ourselves: I’ve heard it said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison expecting the other person to die.”
4. Ask for forgiveness: Alcoholics Anonymous is famous for encouraging its members to reach out to anyone they may have hurt and apologizing. Asking for forgiveness has the potential to bless others and free us. Not everyone will accept of our apologies, but that doesn’t matter. We need to do our part. We can’t control how people will respond and trying to will drive us crazy.
So, if you want to love yourself more -- and ensure that an “unforgiveness issue” doesn’t steal your joy this holiday season -- act on these forgiveness principles.
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
How joyful is the man the Lord does not charge with sin and in whose spirit is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2)