Forgiving ourselves

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

The other day I flipped on the radio and heard a man telling of the atrocities he had committed during the Korean War. The program's host queried him about forgiveness.

"Do you mean self-forgiveness?" he responded. And when the host indicated that she did, he said, "Yes, but it had to be something more than myself forgiving me." He implied that it was God who enabled him to forgive himself.

The Bible speaks of God "who forgiveth all thine iniquities.... He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewardeth us according to our iniquities" (Ps. 103:3, 10).

Turning to God, divine Love, for forgiveness is the way, and maybe the only way, to find the forgiveness that wipes out sin and the memory of it. Indulging in self-hatred and condemnation is destructive.

That psalm also gives the assurance that the same God who forgives all iniquities is the One "who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction."

Humanity does need to be delivered from destructive condemnation. Too often we find that we just can't forgive ourselves. And this destructive condemnation can poison our thinking. A friend once told me, "A condemning state of consciousness includes whatever is in one's consciousness." I was advised to eliminate self-condemnation if I did not want to have such an attitude toward others.

That was easier said than done. One day after I'd spent hours condemning myself and trying to stop. I cried out in exasperation, "God, if You can't make somebody better than me, that's Your problem, not mine."

Of course, I recognized at the time that that was a foolish thing to say, but it did waken me to the fact that lingering in a sinful sense of myself was denying my true selfhood, and in a way accusing God of creating evil.

This experience, happening well over a half century ago, still alerts me to stop indulging in self-hate.

I certainly am not going to condemn God, nor continue thinking in a way that would condemn others.

This doesn't mean that we should not condemn evil itself. Every mistake should be exposed and corrected. In the process of doing this, we separate the sin or mistake from the one who made it.

In Christian Science, as in any science, a mistake involves ignorance, and ignorance yields to understanding. Neither the ignorance nor the mistakes it causes belong to the individual. This affirmation that the error is indeed separate from the person calls for intellectual honesty and freedom from self-justification when considering our own mistakes.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the Christian Science textbook, "Innocence and Truth overcome guilt and error" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 568). The truth is that the individuality of all of us naturally includes our spiritual innocence.

This is the individuality we are to love, and never to hate. There are times when it may seem that what we have done or thought is far from this perfect selfhood of God's creating, but it is essential that we stand for the truth of our innocence.

The only legitimate function of guilt is to enable us to see mistakes so that they may be corrected. It is not a state of thought in which to linger.

Because of the absolute nature of the perfection of God's creation, all errors can be corrected. Facing up to our mistakes, learning lessons from them, and going forward to better works are the rewards of rising above self-hate to love for God and His creation.

This pure spiritual love, consistently maintained, is a consciousness that blesses all that it includes, and condemning others can find no place there. Forgiving ourselves, we can more readily forgive others, and help them forgive themselves.

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