God can forgive me, but I’ll never forgive myself: The dangers of self-condemnation

Trying to drift off to sleep, there’s a nagging in your heart and a pit in your stomach.

And then you remember. You handled that conflict incredibly poorly. The person you interacted with may not look at you the same way tomorrow. Or ever. You really screwed things up, even though they said you were forgiven.

Remembering this mistake brings on a flood of other areas you’ve messed up recently. You paid that bill late. You haven’t called your sibling in more than a month. You made the wrong career move.

Whatever your actual list is, the truth surrounding these thoughts means only one thing: You can’t seem to forgive yourself for your failures and mistakes.

The pride of self-condemnation  

While some are expert grudge-holders, many of us find it easier to forgive others over accepting forgiveness for ourselves. Most times, when someone is genuinely apologetic, we accept the idea that they desire to restore the relationship, and we forgive them.

It’s trickier when we talk about forgiving ourselves, though. We must live with our choices, our mistakes, our shame. Apologizing to ourselves doesn’t exactly have the same effect as when a friend apologizes for their sin against us.

It might seem harmless, but there’s a danger to self-condemnation. It starts with the idea of pride. This sticky sin that infests our minds and refuses to stop clinging to our humility. Pride eats away at our ability to let go of our sin by telling us we’re too smart, too kind, too mature to make that mistake. So when the mistake happens, our pride punishes us by saying we should’ve known better. We’re too good for that sin.

The clinging then attempts to turn into a stronghold. Pride goes a step further. It tries to give us the role of ultimate judge. With self-condemnation and the inability to let go of our mistakes comes the idea that we can refuse God’s verdict over our sin. We may think we’ve accepted God’s forgiveness or even the forgiveness of that friend we wounded, but if we’re stuck in a cycle of self-condemnation, we’re telling God He was wrong for forgiving us. That this time we went too far.

And while we sit with our nagging hearts and anxious minds, wondering if we’ll ever escape our self-loathing, God reveals to us His grace.

Breaking pride’s stronghold

It’s easy to have the head knowledge of Jesus forgiving us all our sins. But how do we break pride’s stronghold that keeps us in the continuous loop of self-condemnation?

By remembering Jesus not only died for us, but He advocates for us. We can have full confidence that every time we sin, Jesus speaks on our behalf. He doesn’t look at our sin saying, “I can’t believe I have to forgive you for this. But I already died for you, so I have to wipe you clean.”  

Our pride shouldn’t be able to convince us of self-condemnation—there’s no decision to be made! Jesus already decided. God in His grace lovingly looks at us through the perfection of Jesus. We can remind ourselves of this by pouring through the scriptures and finding truth to replace the lies and the pride that hold our thoughts captive.

But we’ll never overcome self-condemnation if the only voice we listen to is the one inside our head telling us we’re wrong, we’re stupid, we’re more sinful than our friend or coworker or pastor. If we refuse the help of others and the truth from the promises of Jesus, we will live as if God never forgave us.

Let’s step out of the shadow of self-condemnation. Let’s look at the words of God and accept them as truth. It’s time to let go of our pride, place the Creator back in the judge’s seat and admit our place. Our wonderful, grace-filled place that reminds us we are forgiven and set free.

Let’s Talk About It: What steps will you take to rid yourself of self-condemnation?

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12 Replies to “God can forgive me, but I’ll never forgive myself: The dangers of self-condemnation”

  1. “Jesus already decided.” >>> This hit my heart! He already decided my sin is forgiven. He already decided I’m worth the price. It’s so easy to get trapped in the “comparison game”. When we start becoming judges of any capacity (on ourselves or others), we push God aside, telling Him we don’t trust His judgement. We don’t trust the beautiful gift of Jesus. <3 Thank you for sharing and convicting!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article, Katie! It truly is amazing how Jesus has forgiven us and loves us through our mistakes. It’s hard to put aside the pride and admit that sometimes, but what a beautiful realization it is when we accept it!

  2. People also can then get into the trap of believing they are unworthy of God’s grace and forgiveness. That they are not good enough for His love. Which is also believing they know and understand themselves better than God – so also an issue of pride. Just from a different perspective.

  3. “We can have full confidence that every time we sin, Jesus speaks on our behalf.” I do get down on myself, but I try to remember that I am human and I’m bound to mess up. God’s grace is always flowing to me when I ask for forgiveness!

  4. “Pride eats away at our ability to let go of our sin by telling us we’re too smart, too kind, too mature to make that mistake. So when the mistake happens, our pride punishes us by saying we should’ve known better.” Wow!!

  5. I can so relate to this. Thank you for these words. It is so easy for me to fall into that pit of self-condemnation, but you are right, it is a pit of pride, because in Jesus, there is no condemnation. He died so we could be forgiven.

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