What were we thinking? (Why did we act the way we did?)
By Greg Aitkens
In our journey with forgiveness, we might find that the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. We all make mistakes. We are human. Today’s message is about forgiving ourselves.
In my case, I’ve been way too judgmental and critical of others. I lacked the sensitivity and understanding I should have had about others. I demanded that I get my own way, and was very willful and even driven to achieve my own agenda– and not do what the Lord had in mind. I was regularly too selfish and over-reacted to what others have said or done.
I wish I could relive certain seasons of life, do them over again, and do them a lot better. We all know we can’t do that, and I have come to realize that the past is gone. It’s over!
We could be stuck in guilt, shame, and regret over our wrongdoings and sins, however, we also come to realize that “this is no way to live”. We are robbed of the Joy of living in the Lord here and now. In my view, we need to let our past mistakes go, and move on with life. We must stop beating ourselves up over our past errors. With our Lord’s help, we can forgive ourselves.
Here are some suggestions for moving on, which have worked well for me:
Step 1: What did we do?
- Make a detailed list of mistakes we made. Did we resort to drugs or alcohol and wild parties? Did we hang out with the wrong crowd, causing us to do things we are not so proud of? Consider these words from Galatians 5: 19-21: When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy , drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
- How did our actions or words impact others? Have we walked in the shoes of the people we offended?
- Be honest. We get to see the reality of our past errors, and can think about what caused us to act in the ways we did.
- Avoid denials. We can pretend we didn’t do these things, or just “sweep them under the rug”, however, accepting the reality of what we did is an important step in beginning to” let- it- all- go.”
Step 2: Acknowledge and Admit our Sins
- We’ve looked soberly at what happened and have been honest about our actions and behaviors we are” not so proud of”.
- Consider this Scripture from James 4: 7-10: So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands you sinners, purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
- We do need to feel grief and sorrow for our past mistakes , however, we cannot remain “stuck” there. We don’t need to wallow for too long.
Step 3: Confess our Sins to Jesus
- Our Lord hears our confession and forgives us instantly.
- Isn’t it a wonderful privilege to have a loving Lord who forgives us for whatever we have done?
- In our confession, our Lord reminds us to flee from sin, and do our best to live lives which are pleasing to Him in all ways.
- Consider these Scriptures: Psalm 32:5 : Finally, I confessed my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself,” I will confess my rebellion to the Lord”. And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
- Psalm 51:1-2: Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from guilt. Purify me from my sin.
- Confessing before our Lord helps us to develop a heart of contrition. We gain a heart of humility, in full recognition of our propensity to sin.
Step 4 : Decide to Let it all go
- We come to realize that being stuck in guilt, shame and regret from our past lives is not good for us.
- We realize that our Loving Lord has forgiven us for whatever sins we’ve committed.
- We silence our “inner critic” who wants to dredge up the past, and we tell the critic to get out and never come back. (This could be the evil one whispering nonsense. Rebuke these evil thoughts instantly!)
- Consider this Scripture from 1 Peter 5:7: Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
- We are worthy before God, despite whatever has happened in the past. Consider this Scripture from Galatians 4: 5-7: God sent him ( Jesus) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.(Daughters and sons of the Most High God!) And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Sin into our hearts, prompting us to call out Abba, Father. Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God made you his heir.
- Check out these encouraging words in Romans 8:1 : So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
Step 5: Saying sorry
- In our wrongdoing in the past, it’s likely that we’ve offended or hurt others. We acted badly. We said the wrong things in anger, etc.
- We need to apologize and reconcile with others, if possible.
- Some powerful words to help us are these: “ I owe you and apology. Could you forgive me?” In the times I’ve mustered the courage to say these words , all the relationships were improved or restored!
- Consider this Scripture from Matthew 5:23-25 : If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come offer your gift. Lose no time; settle with your opponent on your way to court with him.
Step 6: Look at what we learned
- It’s good to listen to the Holy Spirit when we receive insights about people or situations. Do not ignore God’s good counsel. These are good for us.
- It’s about them. Being more concerned about others’ situations more than our own helps us to ramp up mercy and compassion, and takes the focus off of us.
- Coming under the Lordship of Jesus will help us to avoid the temptations of this world, including independence, self image concerns, secularism, and materialism.
- Quiet humility is a far better approach to other people.
- We have not forgotten our mistakes , however, we have chosen to learn from them. They can be our best teaching tools.
- Coming before Our Lord in prayer, helps us to reorder our priorities, seeking first His will for our lives, and not our own.
Step 7: Bask in the Love of Jesus
- Our well-being has been restored by looking closely at our past lives, and confessing our sins.
- We’ve realized the foolishness of beating ourselves to death over past mistakes.
- We can be kinder to ourselves when we do make mistakes, and can in His power, commit to living a life more pleasing to Him.
- Consider the following Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17 : This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Questions to Ponder:
- Do we still “replay-the-tape” of the mistakes we’ve made?
- Isn’t it time for us to seek our Lord’s help in forgiving ourselves?
For Your Consideration:
We can often be our own worst critic. We can beat ourselves up for too long. In admitting our errors, and confessing our sins, we can move on and grow in maturity.