Lifestyle magazine for the local Black community
BY DR. ROBERT E. FOWLER
I want to talk about forgiving yourself. Guilt and Bitterness are the Siamese twins of misery, bringing nothing but resentment and regret.
Everywhere I go, I meet people who are continually punishing themselves for the past. They play a game I call “If Only.” If only I knew what I knew today. If only I could erase the past. If only I had amnesia. If only I could start over. If only I could begin again. If only I had listened sooner. If only I could forgive myself.
Everybody has regrets, because nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes, and we all fumble and stumble. We say foolish things and make bad decisions. We waste time and hurt ourselves and hurt other people.
When you cut yourself, you bleed instantly. That’s a natural consequence. When you violate your conscience, you automatically have regrets. But God never meant for you to live that way. He never meant for you to go around with a load of guilt, carrying it all. Psalm 32:1 says, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Blessed means “happy.” This verse
says, “Happy is the man who doesn’t have any regrets.”
I want to talk about regrets: What we usually do with them, what we should do with them and how God wants us to handle them.
WHAT DO WE NORMALLY DO WITH REGRETS
We usually try to bury them. Have you heard the phrase, “You’ve got to bury the past?” Have you learned that’s nonsense? It doesn’t work. You can’t bury the past. It’s like some old horror movie where the wife murders her husband and he keeps resurrecting himself. That’s the problem with regrets. You bury them and your past resurrects itself, often at the most inopportune times — when you don’t want anybody else to know. All of a sudden it rears its head. You cannot bury the past. You can only neutralize the sting.
David says in Psalm 19:2, “No one can see his own errors. Deliver me, Lord, from secret faults.” We all have blind spots. We all have faults, secret regrets. And it’s not as easy to deny them as we think.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
The Bible is very clear on what to do in order to get off the guilt trip. The Bible is practical. God never meant for you to live under a load of guilt. So what do you do?
Admit it. Admit your guilt. David says in Psalm 51:3, “I recognize my faults. I’m conscious of my sin.” Psalm 32:5 says, “I decided to confess them to You and You forgave all my sins.” This is the most painful step in getting rid of our regrets. We don’t like to accept responsibility and say, “I was wrong.” We don’t like to admit what we really are.
When you admit it to God, you’re not going to shock Him. He’s not surprised. He’s not shocked. He knows it’s happened. He just wants you to admit it. Admit it to God. Admit your guilt.
WHAT DOES GOD WANT TO DO WITH OUR REGRETS?
God wants to clean your conscience. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Let’s talk it over,’ says the Lord. ‘No matter how deep the stain of your sin, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow.’”
There’s no detergent in the world that can make that claim. He takes out those spots that cannot be removed even by Super All-Powerful Dominant Cheer. “I can take the stain out.” He wants to clean your conscience, clear your memory and set you free from regrets so you can get on with the future. He’s saying, “I don’t want to rub it in. I want to rub it out.” That’s what God does with our sins. He’s more eager to forgive you than you are to ask forgiveness