The Importance of Self-Forgiveness

Growing up, I’ve always figured that I had forgiveness down pretty well. I’m usually the first to say “I’m sorry” in an argument with my friends or my family, and I’m rarely upset with someone for more than a day. Even if someone does something truly hurtful to me, I don’t tend to hold grudges. I find it exhausting.

I thought that forgiveness was a simple concept, but I was wrong.

Over the past few months, this one-dimensional view of forgiveness has shattered. I’ve realized that there’s been a whole other component to biblical forgiveness that I had been completely ignoring: Self-forgiveness. I don’t forgive myself, whether it’s a small mistake like snoozing one too many times in the morning or something that carries more weight like falling back into a sinful habit I thought I had conquered. Rather than define my days by my victories, I define my days by my shortcomings, stitching together each “less-than-perfect” action into a mental patchwork quilt.  

While it comes naturally for me to look past the failures of others, it seems impossible to look past my own.

I wasn’t even aware of this harmful habit until I started to notice the weight of it. The burden of my own judgement became exhausting to carry. The good, no, great news is that this burden can be lifted.

During this season, I’ve learned that self-forgiveness requires effort—just as it takes effort to forgive others. If you’re also struggling with self-forgiveness, here are a few truths that have helped ground my identity in Christ rather than in my skewed self-perceptions. 2 Corinthians 2:15 reminds us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (ESV). When I catch myself obsessing over a missed deadline for class or fixating on the number of days since I last read my Bible, I stop. Romans 12:2 tells us to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (ESV). God is more than capable of renewing our toxic thought-patterns and self-perceptions if we simply ask Him to.

One thing I’ve tried to consistently ask God is that He would help me see myself the way that He sees me. In the book Wild and Free (10/10 recommend for all the ladies!), Jess Connolly writes a beautiful reminder of our innate worth: “The Creator of the universe didn’t just love and speak us into being, He also called us good—the same word He called the massive, majestic oceans and the sun that lights our solar system and keeps us all sustained.” In Psalm 139, David writes that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (ESV).  Not “wonderfully made except when we mess up.” We are wonderfully made. Period.

There is no simple fix for this. The process of learning to love myself despite my mistakes and flaws is slow, but absolutely worth it. I’m learning that the key to self-forgiveness isn’t a combination of self-help books, motivational post-it notes, and treat-yo-self days. It’s living in the freedom that God has already forgiven the worst that I’ve done and the worst that I’ll do in the future. If my holy and perfect God sees the deepest, darkest parts of me and still call me His child, why should I let those things define me?

Lydia Anvar is proud to call Kentucky her homeland. As a college student, she spends her days making quesedillas, writing papers for her English classes, and serving international students through her campus ministry. Lydia is an avid fan of road-trips and dance parties. She's thankful that there is so much beauty in language—she loves that the written word can explain truths about God in creative, poetic ways. She's passionate about restoring dignity to those who are victimized by unjust labor laws around the world, and she loves learning about God's heart for the neglected. 

Instagram: @lydiaanvar