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Is it Pride That Keeps Us from Forgiving Ourselves?


Jessica Brodie


Is it Pride That Keeps Us from Forgiving Ourselves?

Forgiveness is not an option for Christians — the Bible teaches — it’s mandatory.


As Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”


The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 4:32, urges, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”


Scripture is clear that it doesn’t mean once but over and over. “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them,” Jesus says in Luke 17:3-4.


But what about when it comes to ourselves? It’s one thing to forgive another person, but what about when we have sinned? Sometimes, we have a difficult time extending forgiveness to ourselves, even as we are able to forgive others.


In 1 John 1:9, we’re taught that if we confess our sins, God “will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”


Yet perhaps we struggle, thinking we’re too “bad” or that our sin is somehow exceptional, that God shouldn’t forgive us, or that even if he does, we shouldn’t accept that forgiveness or forgive ourselves sin in turn.


Is it pride that keeps us from forgiving ourselves?


It is indeed usually pride that stands in our way, preventing us from accepting the gift of forgiveness God offers each one of us.


What Is Forgiveness?

In the Bible, forgiveness is a release or dismissal of something, such as when charges are dropped against a person in court.



In Matthew 6:14, the original text is the word aphiēmi, from the root aphesis, meaning remittance or forgiveness. Another meaning is dismissal, a sending away.


Basically, we are to get rid of, put off, dismiss, or send away any negative feelings or debt. In essence, the slate is wiped clean, and the person can start anew as if it never happened and no punishment awaits.



Romans 8:1 tells us there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”


Similarly, in Colossians 1:14, we’re told that in Jesus, we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”


Just before Jesus died, he said, “It is finished.” That the word translated as “finished” is actually teleō, which means to complete, fulfill, or pay off, as in a debt. Forgiveness is, then, letting a sin or penalty go completely, erasing it forever.


We are to do this to others — and to ourselves.


What Is Pride?

Pride in the Bible is typically an over-absorption with ourselves, considering ourselves superior to or outside of the typical. It’s an exaggerated sense of our own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority.


Pride’s opposite is humility. The Bible is clear that God hates pride, and pride is a sin.


Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”


In Luke 14:11, Jesus says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


Isaiah elaborates, “The Lord Almighty planned it, to bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble all who are renowned on the earth” (Isaiah 23:9).



Pride isn’t just thinking we are great or even on par with God. It’s also thinking we are an exception to the norm or we are somehow different or special outside of the graces and gifts God gave to us.


Adam and Eve exhibited pride in the Garden of Eden when they were tempted to believe they could be like God and ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3).


We exhibit pride when we think we are above the law (whether God’s or human law) or better or more deserving than others in some way.


As 1 Corinthians 4:7 puts it, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”


Why Does Pride Keep Us from Forgiving Ourselves?

At its core, pride rejects the gift of grace that God extends to us, and that is why it is such a sin. It is a self-imposed wall between the Lord and us.


While we might know intellectually that God forgives people for doing wrong things, we perhaps think something along the lines of, “But I knew better. I shouldn’t have done this. I wouldn’t forgive me if I were God.”


That’s the crux, that notion of “if I were God.” For we must understand that none of us is God, nor can we ever come close. If God, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end, and creator of the universe, chooses to bestow the gift of forgiveness on anyone who repents and believes, why do we believe we have the power to do anything but accept that gift?



When we punish ourselves by denying us self-compassion, we’re, in essence, “playing God.”


Or perhaps we think punishing ourselves prevents us from doing the same thing over and over. By beating ourselves up and not forgiving ourselves, we hold on to the sin, and in a sense, it’s a way of avoiding genuine repentance.


Repentance is recognizing we did wrong and then striving to walk in a new way. It’s taking that new and better path, living for the “new self,” that new creation in Christ, that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:24.


Not forgiving ourselves is an attempt to cling to the old self, even as we publish ourselves for what that old self did.


Why Should We Forgive Ourselves?

God calls us to embrace humility and acceptance. The humble heart not only acknowledges that God is Lord but also accepts with grace and gratitude all that God bestows.


Fighting against what God wants — forgiveness — is actually not true punishment of ourselves but rather disrespect toward the Lord Almighty.


Forgiveness translates to acceptance. When we forgive others, we accept that God wants us to set aside anger, wrath, judgment, or any other consequence or negative emotion toward another person.


When we forgive ourselves, it’s much the same. We accept God’s gracious actions and intentions toward us. We enter into a right and righteous relationship with God because we honor and heed his wishes.


We accept his love.


It’s not about fixing poor self-image or struggles with self-worth, but rather about accepting that God has chosen to forgive us.



Who, then, are we to challenge God’s plan and God’s will?


Does Forgiveness Tie in with Love?

Forgiveness is part of love. When asked about the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus pointed to love, telling us,


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).


Part of loving our neighbor is forgiving our neighbor. Part of loving ourselves is forgiving ourselves.


God commands us to love him, love our neighbor, and love ourselves. We are an important part of that. When we deny ourselves forgiveness, we are not effectively loving ourselves and hence, not following God’s commands.


One might wonder whether the Apostle Paul, who had much to say about forgiveness, struggled with accepting God’s grace and mercy for his own sins.


After all, though he was instrumental in the development and spread of the early church, at one point, he was an enemy of the church, arresting and imprisoning followers of Jesus before his own conversion to Christianity.


However, Paul is clear in his letter to Timothy that he, too, is forgiven, as are we all. There is no sin too big or too bad for God’s perfect, cleansing liberation.


If you are having trouble forgiving yourself for something you did wrong, consider reflecting on these words from Psalm 103:10-14:


He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.



Amen. Thanks be to God.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.


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