This is the last in a series of six posts on forgiving yourself. Be sure to track back to read all the posts.
One reason many people can’t forgive themselves is because they made a vow to not forgive themselves. They decided that their actions were so immoral or reprehensible that they could never forgive themselves. This is their way of punishing themselves in a manner equal to their offense.
Forgiving Yourself – The Power of a Vow
I’ve learned from my counseling experience that vows are very powerful acts of the will. They are stronger than a belief or a decision. They act almost like a one way ticket in the mind. In other words, once you make a vow, there’s almost no going back. People who make vows cease to decide in certain situations. The vow predisposes them to act without the benefit of reason.
For example; if I was hurt by a good friend in the past, I may vow to never have a close friend again. That decision might protect me in some ways from being hurt but it also cuts me off from any level of intimacy with potential friends.
Imagine that God sends a friend into my life to help me, encourage me, comfort me or love me but my reaction is an immediate wall, pushing them away. I won’t have anything to do with them because I chose years ago, in the vow, to never have a close friend again. It’s like a switch is flipped in my brain preventing me from even allowing a friendship to happen. I’m not open to it.
The same thing happens when it comes to forgiving yourself. People vow to never forgive themselves. They may not even realize what they have done or what is happening. They don’t understand the power the vow has in their life to keep them from experiencing self-kindness.
Forgiving Yourself – Breaking the Vow
Because of this it’s important to break the vow. I can’t say what takes place when this happens…if it’s emotional, or psychological or spiritual or a little of all three. But something happens. I’ve seen it. When people choose to break a vow it’s like their mind is suddenly given back the ability to choose.
Let’s use my example again. In the past I might flat-out reject the kindness of a potential friend. After I break the vow, there is a split second of choice where I have the ability to consider the possibility of allowing myself to experience the closeness of a friendship again. In the same way, if you break the vow to not be forgiven, you will finally be open to at least consider stopping your self-punishment and allowing good things to happen.
How do you break a vow?
Breaking a vow is an act of the will before God. So pray something like this:
Father, I realize that I’ve made a foolish vow. Looking back, I made it out of self-protection. But now I see that it’s no longer helping me. It’s hurting me. So Father, I take back my vow to never forgive myself. I break the vow and choose to reopen my mind and heart to everything that you have for me. Forgive me for the years I’ve wasted by being closed off to your forgiveness. Soften my heart to the truth of your forgiveness. Let it seep into the deepest part of my being and heal me of my brokenness. In the split seconds when I have the chance to choose or reject your forgiveness, please empower me to receive it and allow good things to happen once again. Thank you Father. Amen.
I discuss vows in my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past.
Question: What kind of vows have you made to protect yourself? Leave your comment below.