When The Hardest Person to Forgive is Yourself

August 10, 2011 | 24 comments

We drift north across the lake, this gigantic reflecting glass of Heaven.

I lean over the side of the boat, to adjust the line tangled at the end of the fishing rod.

And that’s when I see her, the one so hard to forgive: Me.

She is a reflection in a watery looking glass. She is me — a woman too often tangled in the interior.

Yes, I am a woman hard to pardon, because the same woman who needs to do the forgiving is the one who needs to be forgiven.

Why is it sometimes hardest to forgive ourselves? Why do we hold the longest grudges against our own souls? Why do we distort the Gospel by believing that Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient only for others, but not for us? We are the ones who carry guilt on our backs like rock-filled knapsacks.


The sun sinks lower, past the pines. A loon cries in the wild, and waterbugs skitter across the surface, stitching seams on water-fabric. I am sitting on the front of the boat, with bare feet dangling over the edge. I could sit here — under this darkening dome of Heaven — and relive some old sins. It would be easy to do. The girl below me wants to.

But I tell that girl: I had the courage to forgive you already. Because my Savior had the strength to forgive me.

I untangle the line from the tip of the rod, and I look deeper into the obsidian mirror. Past me, I see it. Heaven: That which is bigger than me. Kingdom of God: That which lives in me. 

I remember these solid truths: Jesus Christ’s work on the cross was enough. Our Savior carried the sin of mankind on his back. He can handle it. He covered it.

No sin is too big for a God even bigger.

Neither is our sin too small to lay at the Calvary altar.

He gave it all, our All in All.

Are you having trouble letting it go? Perhaps we all do, from time to time. I carry around past mistakes like a penance, but God never said we needed to do that. He asks for us to come to Him with humble, contrite hearts. He asks us to come to the cross.

Can you drop the knapsack of guilt today and walk away from it? Can you find the courage to forgive yourself, through Christ Jesus?

Consider naming the sin — to yourself and to God. Confess it to Him by writing it on a rock. Then, toss the rock into a river or lake. Or, write your burdens on a slip of paper, and burn the paper.

Father, let us not pick our sins back up again. You said from the cross: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Writing in community today with Ann Voskamp, who asks us to consider the Practice of Forgiveness. May I suggest you read her post today if you’ve ever struggled with forgiving a parent? It is a profoundly hopeful piece of writing.

by | August 10, 2011 | 24 comments


  1. Anne Lang Bundy

    Such a good and important post, Jennifer! I’ve struggled with this for so long! I don’t think I even realized that I finally have forgiven myself until I read this. My mind finally convinced my heart of that reality, after I called this verse to mind about a thousand times:

    There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

    • dukeslee

      Oh Anne … That is *the* verse for the person who continually condemns herself. Oh, thank you, thank you for this gift of Scripture in the comment box. You are a wise sister.

  2. Nancy

    That verse is so important, one I cling to. Forgiveness is hard, I think, because we have an enemy who doesn’t want us to believe it is possible, who doesn’t want us to believe the gospel is true.

    • dukeslee

      So true, Nancy. … If we really believe, we are a threat to the enemy. Grateful for your Truths spoken here in the comment box.

  3. Elizabeth

    I LOVE the idea of writing our sin on a rock and throwing into a lake, river, or even the sea…this would work when we are struggling to let go of an offense done to us too. Thank you!

    • dukeslee

      Good point, Elizabeth. We can do the same thing when we need to forgive someone else.

      I have always been in favor of very visual, hands-on ways of dealing with the stuff of life. Several times, I have literally written down my sins and lit a match to them. It reminds me that Jesus said “it is finished,” and He meant it.

  4. Beth Werner Lee

    Beautiful picture!
    Beautiful truth, making
    Beautiful heart!
    Thank you for
    Beautiful faith.

  5. Megan Willome

    Having a really bad day today. Thanks for your post.

    • Lyla Lindquist

      Megan, just talked to Him about you. Used His owns words, the ones David wrote in #18. The best parts of that Psalm, anyway. Might the rock be found as your refuge today.

      And Jennifer? Moving stuff here. You got into a part of me today.

    • dukeslee


      Praying for you. Just like you’ve done for me again and again … I’m here, K?


  6. Lisa notes...

    Yep, I am usually the last one I will forgive. But I am thankful for yet another reminder that it needn’t be so. The Lord is gracious to ALL his children, me included. Thanks, Jennifer.

  7. Glynn

    I think we get haunted by mistakes, an unkind word we said, and bad old normal sin, and we keep hearing this voice that whispers, “You’re not worth anything.” That’s usually when I have to remind myself whose image I’m made in, and what he already did for me.

  8. S. Etole

    let us not call unclean what He has called clean …

  9. Shaunie Friday

    I’m right there with you Jennifer! My reflection is not my friend, for many reasons these days. I LOVE your idea of writing the name of my hard to forgive sins on a rock and throwing it into the reflection of heaven in the water!! Thank you for such a wonderful suggestion!

    • dukeslee

      It feels really, REALLY good. 🙂

  10. Sheila Lagrand

    One Sunday in church we were invited to write the name of someone we need to forgive on a slip of paper and nail it to the cross–literally. Big crosses stood near the doors, and volunteers handed out nails. The hammer passed from hand to hand.

    I wonder, often, how many other people wrote “myself” on that slip of paper that morning.

    Thank you for this, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee


      What a great exercise. I’m going to mention this to my pastor. And yes, I’ll bet a lot of folks wrote “myself” on the paper.

      Thank you for sharing this idea.

  11. floyd

    Your illustration of catching your reflection in the water and then the glimpse of heaven beyond yourself was absolutely beautiful.
    I find it a fine line between forgiving myself as God has and remembering the sin for wisdom sake.
    It is a constant struggle in the flesh. I think if that struggle draws us to seek and do the best we can to understand and know God, in the end it’s all for our best.

    • dukeslee

      Hey Floyd … Thanks for dropping by. You raise a very good point. Perhaps, in my simple terms, you’re saying we ought to forgive, but not necessarily forget? Because it is good to remember a bit, so we don’t repeat old mistakes?

      Thank you for sharing.

      • floyd

        Well, you said it better and more efficient than I did, but that was very well summed up. The simpler the better I always say. Good job.

  12. emily wierenga

    oh jennifer… how this ministers to me today, this sinner of a girl. love to you. xo

  13. Nancy Kourmoulis

    Thank you for these words, the visual reminder of heaven in me, bigger than me and my sin. I have been reading of David, his sin, repentance, and God’s forgiveness and grace. How even after the sin God gave David the plans, patterns, and provision for the temple Solomon built. God continued to use and speak to David – his sin did not disqualify him.

  14. Rita Schau

    God is always at work…..proven again today to me. I just started reading Marilyn Meberg’s book, “Tell me everything” last night….and your post today. I’m thinking some confession is in order. Thanks for your writing…. God Bless 🙂


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