How to Forgive Yourself for the Thoughts You Think
Do You Ever Think, “If Someone Knew What I Was Thinking Right Now, They’d Lose All Respect for Me?”
We all battle with our thoughts.
Maybe you’re fighting thoughts of lust, hatred, or negativity. Maybe you’re struggling with your thoughts towards a certain person. Or you’re constantly battling with your inner critic. Or maybe you’re the type whose anxious thoughts continually get the better of them.
You know you shouldn’t be thinking this way but now, on top of the existing struggle, you add guilt to your list.
If this is you, you are likely feeling convicted and confused. You may wonder how you can forgive myself, particularly when it feels like God wouldn’t just let you off the hook.
Maybe you’re saying, “Kris I’ve sinned in my mind so many times, how could I possibly forgive myself?”
Here’s a 5-step process that will help you forgive yourself and move forward, unhindered.
When you are struggling to forgive yourself, it’s likely because you’re battling with guilt. I want to encourage you to lean into that guilt, as it can be a motivating factor. No, I’m not saying give in to the guilt, I’m saying lean into it.
As Christians we tend to take two extremes when it comes to guilt. Some will come under its burdensome weight, while others will vehemently reject it. The problem with both of these extremes is that we don’t truly learn the lesson that guilt brings.
If I think hateful thoughts about someone and then feel guilty about it, God may be trying to show me something in that moment, and my simple rejection of the guilty feeling could also be rejecting the lesson it brings.
You may be saying, “Kris, guilt doesn’t come from God.” Doesn’t it, though?
Aren’t all emotions from God?
You may be confusing guilt AFTER repentance. Guilt that is meant for conviction should never be ignored. Guilt after you’ve been forgiven is just condemnation -that you can ignore.
You have a choice as to what you are going to think.
I know what it feels like to take satan’s bait and then find myself in a mental spiral that involves some form of mental sin that never in a million years would I want you or my pastor to find out about.
But the truth is, we all fall short. Not that that’s an excuse to keep on sinning, but God knew this is how we were, which is why He sent Jesus, so that we could be saved and forgiven.
1 John 1:9 reminds us that If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But you may be saying, Kris I’ve repented a thousand times. And to that I say, if it’s a new sin, Repent again. God’s mercies are new every morning. But if it’s a sin you’ve already confessed, receive the same forgiveness that God has already given you.
Luke 14:28 tells us, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
This takes wisdom. Let’s apply that same wisdom to counting the cost of unforgiveness. By not forgiving yourself, what will the cost be? Your health, loving relationships, emotional freedom, your calling in Christ?
Holding on to unforgiveness is like a cancer. It eats away at every healthy part of you until you are completely consumed. That includes forgiveness against yourself. You don’t gain points for being a martyr. You can’t make up for your sins by carrying the weight. That’s why Jesus came for us.
Ultimately, no one is going to force you to forgive yourself, it’s up to you to see if the cost of holding onto it is worth it.
If you’re like most, you truly don’t know why you keep thinking the way you think. You’d love to stop it, but you can’t. To stop thinking the thoughts you think, it would help to understand where they are coming from. (read Where do Toxic Thoughts Come From)
Proverbs 21:2 encourages us by saying, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Don’t confuse understanding with needing to know everything before you trust God. The understanding that God is referring to here is wisdom not a suitable explanation.
Look to gain understanding of why you are thinking this way in the first place. This will not only help in the forgiveness, but also help you identify and thus prevent the process from happening again in the future. Because even if you forgive yourself, it will be just a matter of time before the pattern repeats itself.
Ask, Why am I thinking this in the first place? What feelings are driving this thought process?
When you understand why you’re thinking the way you are, you can begin to set out to develop a new pattern. Without a new focus, your mind will always default to the old patterns
Yes, forgiveness is a decision. It’s not a feeling, It’s an act of the will.
Colossians 3:2 instructs us to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This tells us that we have a choice as to what we are going to think about. Holding unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping your enemy will die…..except in this case, that enemy is YOU.
Don’t wait for the feeling to forgive, it may never come. Don’t wait for the guilt to pass, it may never happen. Instead, decide to follow the mandate that our Lord has given us to forgive.
Yes, ask God to forgive you and help you renew your mind, but while you’re at it, forgive yourself so that you may be free. In Jesus’ name.
Having trouble with toxic thoughts? Take this free assessment to see How Toxic Are My Thoughts?
If you are ready to quiet the chaos in your mind – take control of your thoughts and transform your life, join us for our online course RENEW.