Valerie Hayden Dropping Jewels
A few years ago, our local City Mission ran a program to help women get a fresh start in their lives. I was blessed to teach a class in the program where we dealt with the issue of abuse. Some of the women had just gotten out of prison and had nowhere else to go. Some were dealing with and trying to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. Some were escaping abusive relationships. Some were dealing with all of the above. I have to tell you, I thought my childhood was hard until I heard some of their heart-wrenching stories of loss. Though each story was different, they all had to deal with one issue – forgiving self.
It didn’t take them long to forgive everyone else. It wasn’t impossible to think about forgiving God for something. Their problem was “I just can’t forgive myself!!!”
Self-hatred, or un-forgiveness of self, is common in our society today, especially in those of us who have been abused. I’ve ministered to many women from all walks of life. The issue is the same no matter where they came from or what they’ve done. Some women believe that hating self somehow pays for the damage they did to their families and loved ones, or to themselves. They beat on themselves over and over with this kind of negative self-talk: “If only I hadn’t done (fill in the blank) “If I didn’t ________ I wouldn’t have lost my kids forever!” Or “I was such a horrible mother, I beat my child!” The list goes on and on and on. I’ve been ministering to my friend for the last twenty + years. She’s finally willing to talk about forgiving herself for the hurt she caused her children. She is not willing to forgive herself yet. The pain is real. The hurt is so deep we can’t see a way to ever let it out, even if we want to. However, our reality today is that we can NEVER go back and undo the bad choices we made in the past. Self-hate harms our self. It can never pay for the damage we did to others.
Something I deal with today is forgiving myself for the abuse my daughters suffered from their Dad. And for my grandson and granddaughter who were abused by their Daddy. I didn’t stop the cycle of abuse in my family. It continues through four generations. But the love of God heals my children and grandchildren, just like it heals me. They are all believers. I know God has a plan, hope and a future for each one of them.
Many years ago I learned to “walk in forgiveness”. Forgiving everyone of everything every day was a long, long process for me. It started with the baby step of being willing to want to forgive Dad who hurt me so deeply. What makes forgiving so worth the pain is the freedom I experience. Each forgiving step I take brings that much more relief. I walk in forgiveness every day, especially forgiveness of myself when I make bad choices. I love myself in the appropriate way God wants me to. I get my self-worth and value from my relationship with Jesus, and it is an amazing thing!
I end with one question for you today, dear reader:
What is the worst thing that can happen if you forgive yourself?