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You Can't Forgive Yourself

Dr. Stephen Phinney

Let's face it, forgiving yourself is like spitting in the wind. However, appropriating the forgiveness of Christ is another story.


The past week, I received an email from a one-way friend in Kenya titled REMEMBER ME. While this is not a sin in and of itself, after years of emails filled with appeals to "help me" in times of need, and a plethora of replies of helping him with a Christ-as-Life perspective, his replies remained me-centered. After many years of sending him pearls of the Gospel, I was left with some words Jesus spoke:

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)


Have you ever had it that when you finally front the real issue in someone's life, they ultimately turn on you for speaking the Truth?


Christianity today is as selfish as a two-year-old pitching a fit over being denied a piece of candy. When the lion's share of "believers" are denied getting what they want, they often become irrationally angry and act out by demanding that God changes His sovereign plan to sedate their uncomfortable lives.

As with the case of children, to avoid the unpleasant environment a child can create by NOT getting their way, many parents give in to the child's whims and demands. In the meantime, the child's selfishness is never addressed. The child goes through life knowing that if they create an uncomfortable life for their parents, they can rule the world around them through fussing, screaming, throwing objects, or worse yet, letting others know that they are unhappy. Psychologically speaking, the child's guilt for demanding their way becomes hidden in the recesses of their subconscious. Once they become adults, they go through life never addressing the guilt over their sin. They default to, if I forgive myself, all is good.



First of all, you can’t forgive yourself. Worse yet, people who do not have the indwelling Life of Jesus cannot appropriate the forgiveness of Christ for themselves or others. How many times have we heard that we need to forgive ourselves? During my 40+ years as a counselor, I lost count many years ago. So, what’s the real “problem” here?

When I hear this statement come out of my clients' mouths, I quickly focus on two primary doctrinally sound objectives. First, I search for the issue of authentic salvation. This is important because if they are not a real-deal Christian, the issue isn’t about the appropriation of Christ’s forgiveness but rather in demanding to be comforted for the results of their sins. Each need to discover the One who offers one-time forgiveness for all sins. If the person lacks the Life of Jesus from within, the focus for this person becomes brokenness that leads to salvation. Secondly, if authentic salvation is relatively confirmed, the issue becomes revealing that real-deal Christians need to appropriate the existing forgiveness of Christ.

Forgiveness is a concept that is beyond humanity. To forgive someone, forgiveness needs to come from a supernaturally empowered source to release someone from the consequences of their sins. This supernatural forgiver must be the One who determines the standard of what sin and guilt are. Bluntly speaking, this forgiver must not only be a god but the God of the universe and beyond, who sets the standard of what sin is. When someone says they need to forgive themselves, each is covertly claiming they are the God of the universe. If I remember correctly, this was Satan's same objective for Adam and Eve. As soon as Adam and Eve became mini-gods, everything and everybody became obsessed with REMEMBER ME.


While I was preaching, one of my grandchildren recently came up to sit on my lap. First, I need to tell you that she is an adorable child. Yes. I admit it is difficult for me NOT to spoil her, and she knows it. While sitting on my lap, the audience later told me she was giving me the “Opa look.” She looks out of the top of her eyes, bats those darling eyelashes, and says, “Opa…” While enjoying the moment, I kept preaching. She then starts stroking my beard while saying Opa…, Opa... It was then I knew I had a choice. Do I keep preaching or stop to spoil my granddaughter.

While there is a powerful message of the innocence of a child approaching the Father without inhibitions, there was another lesson in play. My granddaughter needed to know that her needs take the back seat when Opa is about the Father’s business. The fact that I received her onto my lap in the middle of a church service communicated that access to the “Father” is a top priority and never denied. However, if the Father is in motion to deliver His mission, this opens the door to teaching the children of God the importance of authoritative respect. In this lesson, my sweet granddaughter hopefully learned a powerful lesson: the parental focus is a top priority, and the child’s needs come second.

Every parent has probably heard it at one time or another: "You're going to spoil that child!" Honestly, this is worth reviewing.

It's certainly possible to spoil your child by giving them too much, not setting boundaries, and not expecting your child to do what's normal and natural for the children of God. The error is not in giving them too much but giving in to their demands when they want much. We teach our children to wait on God by teaching them to wait on their parents. In this, children are formed into potential servants of Christ. Did you get that? Servants. Servitude is about putting the mission first of the one you serve. Parents are not parents to serve their children. Parents are to demonstrate servitude to teach service unto Christ. That is modeled by the parent serving Christ's mandates of Biblical parenting. Christianity lives in a me-me church because the parents are sparing the rod and spoiling the children.

Children need consistent discipline, which means they not only need to have their wants delayed, but when they demand their way, they need purposeful discipline. According to the Word of God, this IS love.

He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, But the stomach of the wicked is in need. (Proverbs 13:24-25)

Here are the facts. Parents who give in to their children are covertly saying that they do not love their children – might even “hate” them. How does a parent know that “hate” is p