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Author Topic: Can We Forgive Ourselves?  (Read 1831 times) Average Rating: 0
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Gebre Menfes Kidus
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« on: August 08, 2009, 10:32:09 AM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2009, 10:43:11 AM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam

Largely in practice, yeah, it's a cop out, but not entirely and not in theory.  Not forgiving oneself (in the proper sense) leads to despair, which the Fathers counsel a lot against.  Judas, for instance, didn't forgive himself.
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2009, 10:51:40 AM »

I agree with Ialmisry's post.

I would add that we do forgive others ("forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors") so why not ourselves? After all... we sin against ourselves too.
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2009, 11:18:09 AM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam

Largely in practice, yeah, it's a cop out, but not entirely and not in theory.  Not forgiving oneself (in the proper sense) leads to despair, which the Fathers counsel a lot against.  Judas, for instance, didn't forgive himself.

I mostly agree with you, although I think Judas is a poor example. Judas's despair was not becasue he didn't forgive himself, but because he didn't repent and seek forgiveness from God.

Basically I maintain that true repentance and sincerely seeking God's forgiveness (again through the sacraments) will bring peace of mind and tranquility to the soul. When we have faith that God has forgiven us, then self-forgiveness becomes moot.

Selam
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2009, 11:54:27 AM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam

Largely in practice, yeah, it's a cop out, but not entirely and not in theory.  Not forgiving oneself (in the proper sense) leads to despair, which the Fathers counsel a lot against.  Judas, for instance, didn't forgive himself.

I mostly agree with you, although I think Judas is a poor example. Judas's despair was not becasue he didn't forgive himself, but because he didn't repent and seek forgiveness from God.

Basically I maintain that true repentance and sincerely seeking God's forgiveness (again through the sacraments) will bring peace of mind and tranquility to the soul. When we have faith that God has forgiven us, then self-forgiveness becomes moot.

Selam

Forgiving one's self is innately linked to God's forgiveness and the humility we need to receive it.  When we hold on to sin when God forgives, then we are acting contrary to His will. 

I would say that a better wording could be, 'Can we fully realize God's forgiveness?'  Yes, I agree that 'forgive yourself' can imply some strange ideas, which is why a lot of ego-centric people have picked up on it without the precursory and necessary forgiveness of God and others.  To 'forgive yourself' without humility is a pagan act.

Forgiveness' power lies in the conscience.  If it does not enter into us as a reality, then the guilt remains and does damage.  We can intellectualize forgiveness by agreeing to the argument that God forgives us but refusing to allow it to enter into our deeper self to treat the guilt.  To properly understand 'forgive yourself,' I think we are talking about that last stage, where Divine forgiveness, which is based on faith in God's love and mercy and justice, enters in and heals the wounded person.

Real forgiveness always incorporates justice.  A simple act of 'forgiving yourself' is not enough without the assurance that God will somehow fix what you have broken.  Just read the Psalms and you will see the continued cries for justice.  Look at St. Zaccheus the Wise, who offered to restore all that he had taken (and then some) and received the fruits of forgiveness, which are eternal life in the Kingdom and peace in this life.

In my own personal struggles, I have learned that praying for your enemies is effective, but even more helpful is praying for those you have harmed.  Each time the shadow of guilt arises, offer that person to God in prayer.  Ask God to take some of the blessings God gives you and give them to that person.  You may not sense it right away depending on your ego, but you will eventually come to realize God's might and His love, and you will sense His forgiveness.  If the devil is terrorizing you with past memories, he will flee because he does not want you to pray like that.  What the devil wants is for you to wallow in self-pity and hopeless remorse, like Judas.

I suppose I am saying that the Orthodox position is that if God forgives the repentant, then the truly repentant will be humble enough to accept God's forgiveness without question.  This means that, so long as we are not sufficiently humble, we are unable to 'forgive ourselves' by truly internalizing God's love and forgiveness.

Just a thought, but I think this is why it is often easier to forgive big sins that overwhelm the ego as opposed to small slights.  Fr. Roman Braga said something like that in an interview I saw not too long ago.


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« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2009, 02:33:58 AM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam

Largely in practice, yeah, it's a cop out, but not entirely and not in theory.  Not forgiving oneself (in the proper sense) leads to despair, which the Fathers counsel a lot against.  Judas, for instance, didn't forgive himself.

I mostly agree with you, although I think Judas is a poor example. Judas's despair was not becasue he didn't forgive himself, but because he didn't repent and seek forgiveness from God.

Basically I maintain that true repentance and sincerely seeking God's forgiveness (again through the sacraments) will bring peace of mind and tranquility to the soul. When we have faith that God has forgiven us, then self-forgiveness becomes moot.

Selam

Forgiving one's self is innately linked to God's forgiveness and the humility we need to receive it.  When we hold on to sin when God forgives, then we are acting contrary to His will. 

I would say that a better wording could be, 'Can we fully realize God's forgiveness?'  Yes, I agree that 'forgive yourself' can imply some strange ideas, which is why a lot of ego-centric people have picked up on it without the precursory and necessary forgiveness of God and others.  To 'forgive yourself' without humility is a pagan act.

Forgiveness' power lies in the conscience.  If it does not enter into us as a reality, then the guilt remains and does damage.  We can intellectualize forgiveness by agreeing to the argument that God forgives us but refusing to allow it to enter into our deeper self to treat the guilt.  To properly understand 'forgive yourself,' I think we are talking about that last stage, where Divine forgiveness, which is based on faith in God's love and mercy and justice, enters in and heals the wounded person.

Real forgiveness always incorporates justice.  A simple act of 'forgiving yourself' is not enough without the assurance that God will somehow fix what you have broken.  Just read the Psalms and you will see the continued cries for justice.  Look at St. Zaccheus the Wise, who offered to restore all that he had taken (and then some) and received the fruits of forgiveness, which are eternal life in the Kingdom and peace in this life.

In my own personal struggles, I have learned that praying for your enemies is effective, but even more helpful is praying for those you have harmed.  Each time the shadow of guilt arises, offer that person to God in prayer.  Ask God to take some of the blessings God gives you and give them to that person.  You may not sense it right away depending on your ego, but you will eventually come to realize God's might and His love, and you will sense His forgiveness.  If the devil is terrorizing you with past memories, he will flee because he does not want you to pray like that.  What the devil wants is for you to wallow in self-pity and hopeless remorse, like Judas.

I suppose I am saying that the Orthodox position is that if God forgives the repentant, then the truly repentant will be humble enough to accept God's forgiveness without question.  This means that, so long as we are not sufficiently humble, we are unable to 'forgive ourselves' by truly internalizing God's love and forgiveness.

Just a thought, but I think this is why it is often easier to forgive big sins that overwhelm the ego as opposed to small slights.  Fr. Roman Braga said something like that in an interview I saw not too long ago.




Good words Father. I think this amplifies my prior statement "...true repentance and sincerely seeking God's forgiveness (again through the sacraments) will bring peace of mind and tranquility to the soul. When we have faith that God has forgiven us, then self-forgiveness becomes moot."

Selam
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« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2009, 03:22:29 AM »

Sometimes forgiving ourselves is necessary. But that doesn't qualify the abdication of seeking forgiveness from God and neighbor.
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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2009, 05:37:19 AM »

In the Movie "Rublev", St. Andrei Rublev is reproaching himself for killing a man to prevent the rape of a peasant girl. He has a vision of his former teacher, the Iconographer Theophanes the Greek (Feofan Grek) to whom he confesses his murder. Theophanes tells him:
"God will forgive you but you must never forgive yourself."
This, I think, is the best approach. Knowing that God can forgive all sins, but remembering that we are sinners. The best way I can think of it is this: If I sin, that sin sends echoes throughout the Universe, damaging God's Creation. God may forgive me, but the echoes of my sin remain. For instance, if I were to murder someone, and God forgave me, the person I murdered would not immediately rise from the dead- the echoes of my sin remain. This is what we need to continually reproach ourselves for I think, for the echoes our sins leave behind which are disrupting the harmony of God's Cosmos.
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2009, 06:09:00 AM »

In the Movie "Rublev", St. Andrei Rublev is reproaching himself for killing a man to prevent the rape of a peasant girl. He has a vision of his former teacher, the Iconographer Theophanes the Greek (Feofan Grek) to whom he confesses his murder. Theophanes tells him:
"God will forgive you but you must never forgive yourself."
This, I think, is the best approach. Knowing that God can forgive all sins, but remembering that we are sinners. The best way I can think of it is this: If I sin, that sin sends echoes throughout the Universe, damaging God's Creation. God may forgive me, but the echoes of my sin remain. For instance, if I were to murder someone, and God forgave me, the person I murdered would not immediately rise from the dead- the echoes of my sin remain. This is what we need to continually reproach ourselves for I think, for the echoes our sins leave behind which are disrupting the harmony of God's Cosmos.

Excellent points!

I think we struggle to find the right balance. On the one hand we doubt God's unfailing mercy and grace. We doubt the efficacy of the Cross. And like Judas, we can easily succumb to satan's lie that we are beyond the possibility of forgiveness. Yet on the other hand we can lapse into an antinomian mentality, taking divine grace for granted.

Perhaps the answer lies in removing the focus from ourselves and focussing on Our Lord. When He is the center of our attention, all other matters become much clearer.

Selam 
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2009, 06:09:36 AM »

If I sin, that sin sends echoes throughout the Universe, damaging God's Creation. God may forgive me, but the echoes of my sin remain. For instance, if I were to murder someone, and God forgave me, the person I murdered would not immediately rise from the dead- the echoes of my sin remain. This is what we need to continually reproach ourselves for I think, for the echoes our sins leave behind which are disrupting the harmony of God's Cosmos.

Nicely put, George.   This is how I, in my grasshopper days in the monastery, was taught to think of "involuntary sin" -a category of sin which can puzzle people. Unintended negative acts which can, as you say, echo out in the universe, bringing damage into the world and into people's lives.
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2009, 08:51:35 PM »

No.
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« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2009, 08:58:07 PM »

Our sin leaves scars.  We may forgive ourselves, but the scars remain.
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« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2009, 09:36:29 PM »

No.

Anything to back that up??
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« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2009, 10:26:56 PM »

No.

isn't there a limit on this kind of posting?   Wink Grin
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2012, 07:53:08 PM »

Sometimes forgiving ourselves is necessary. But that doesn't qualify the abdication of seeking forgiveness from God and neighbor.
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« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2012, 08:03:35 PM »

People are often told that they just need to forgive themselves. We hear this so often today, but is it biblical and is it Orthodox? Do we have the authority to forgive ourselves? If so, then why do we need the sacraments of confession and penance? Isn't God the only one who has the authority to forgive sins that we have committed against Him?

Certainly we must forgive others. Forgiving others is a divine command given to us by Our Lord. But as appealing as it is to say we need to forgive ourselves, I just don't see this as squaring with sound theology. I guess one could argue that if we are commanded to forgive others then we should also include ourselves in the list. But again, if this is so, then why the need for confession and penance?

I think this idea is the product of pop psychology. I may be wrong, and that's why I'm interested in other opinions.

Thanks.

Selam

Faith is the key to everything as the Gospels say in so many ways.

Faith in being forgiven by Jesus is all you need. Here is what he said to do.

Matthew 21

21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
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« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2012, 08:04:40 PM »

In the Movie "Rublev", St. Andrei Rublev is reproaching himself for killing a man to prevent the rape of a peasant girl. He has a vision of his former teacher, the Iconographer Theophanes the Greek (Feofan Grek) to whom he confesses his murder. Theophanes tells him:
"God will forgive you but you must never forgive yourself."
This, I think, is the best approach. Knowing that God can forgive all sins, but remembering that we are sinners. The best way I can think of it is this: If I sin, that sin sends echoes throughout the Universe, damaging God's Creation. God may forgive me, but the echoes of my sin remain. For instance, if I were to murder someone, and God forgave me, the person I murdered would not immediately rise from the dead- the echoes of my sin remain. This is what we need to continually reproach ourselves for I think, for the echoes our sins leave behind which are disrupting the harmony of God's Cosmos.

But the man killed to prevent a girl from being raped, which would make her feel like shit for the rest of her life. Why shouldn't he forgive himself? Killing someone lasts a few minutes, maybe hours, than the soul is gone. Don't get me wrong, I don't advocate murder for any reason. But I do not advocate letting someone rape a girl, which could make her suffer for years, either. If you can prevent the rape without the killing I am all for it. But if you can't. I wouldn't let a girl be raped, just because killing is a sin. Because letting a girl get raped is a sin also, especially if you know you could have done something to prevent it. Ultimately, one way or another we will sin. We are fallible human beings. Therefore sometimes you have to think, which of the sins are the least harmful for the greater good. Not just your soul.


am i looking for excuses? Maybe.
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« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2012, 08:09:14 PM »

Our sin leaves scars.  We may forgive ourselves, but the scars remain.

But if you don't forgive yourself, isn;t it like rejecting the Grace of God?

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« Reply #18 on: November 26, 2012, 08:23:30 PM »

The forgiveness of self tends to come out of truly traumatic situations in which people were harmed in ways which attach a terrible social stigma to the victim.

A male boy being molested for example.

Because of all the animus and revulsion we heap on such acts, often the child not being able to really distinguish between the hatred and vilifying of the act and themselves, takes on terrible amounts of shame and guilt for an act that was not their fault.

Rape case are similar.

Interestingly the long term psychological outcomes of children sexualized by adults is pretty good till they realize how society views the act or those closest to them find out and go nuts.

The forgiveness of oneself here is ultimately a letting go of a sick and pernicious belief that one as a child was the cause of not the just act of sexualization but of the reactions of adults around them as well.

Its hard to hear there is nothing more monstrous than sexual abuse of a child with all its hysterical rhetoric and for a child not to internalize that they feel themselves to be monstrous, disgusting, etc.

Couple that with the unfounded notion that those who are abused as children as more like to abuse others, that is a hell of a burden.

So yeah, letting yourself off the hook for this is a great idea. It destroys lives otherwise.

And that forgiveness of the self, comes at a terribly painful price. It ain't easy.

So this glib use of forgiving oneself for whatever narcissistic trivial sins people engage is silly and does disservice to those for whom it might be a matter of life and death. Or misery and relative peace.

 
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