Matthew 6:12, 14; “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . For if you forgive others their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 18:35. “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
In the Heart of Marriage workshop, I want to explore with you a pathway to self-forgiveness. I contend that self-forgiveness is an active process. Learning to forgive ourselves is a rarely discussed process, both in clinical and in non-clinical environments—as in the church, for instance. This process of self-forgiveness is a movement toward being and becoming a more authentic self–person.
Self-forgiveness is an arduous process that requires an open and honest search of one’s heart. It requires coming to terms with our challenging life experiences, especially challenging relationships with primary individuals from our family of origin. This challenge continues as we develop our own families and other relationships in adulthood.
Memories, recollection of personal stories, dreams and fantasies can all contribute to this process of self-forgiveness and healing. However, a series of questions must be considered on this emotional and spiritual journey:
How have I been emotionally wounded and by whom?
Who have I emotionally wounded?
How is the offense/sin creating suffering on the one experiencing the offense?
In what ways do our society and our particular cultural beliefs contribute to the way or ways that I address, view or ignore my wounds from the offense?
How does God invite me to be self-forgiving of my known wounds and to be willing to confront my unknown wounds?
Learning to forgive myself begins with visiting, with some depth for the first time, and re-visiting our personal stories. We must attend to our early childhood wounds that we continue to nurse and act out in ways to which we are often times unaware. This is because these wounds have been buried deeply into our psychic’s unconscious.
Learning to forgive myself, therefore, requires courage to actualize my faith, to develop an interest and a willingness to engage my personal mystery with trust, and openness to my hearts calling to heal. When I transform my heart by experiencing self-forgiveness, I am more accessible in my spirit to understand and to receive God’s forgiveness of me through Jesus, the Christ our spiritual Lord.
J. Bernard Kynes, Sr., M.Div., LMFT