How does one go about forgiving themselves? Like they know they’re forgiven by God but they can’t help but forgive themselves for the sin they committed & confessed to. Thanks in advance.
I guess that would depend on the individual. Each person has a mind and a conscience that operates differently.
Those who are very scrupulous or afflicted with obsessive thinking would find it difficult to believe they are really forgiven for their sins. Some Catholics who suffer with OCD repeat the same sins in confession, even though they know the priest has absolved their sins.
Then there are people who hardly feel guilty to begin with. They may say to themselves that they really have nothing to confess or be forgiven for because they hardly do anything that is sinful. I am not talking about a sociopath, who has a mental block that makes it difficult to respect others or see how they have harmed others. I am talking of people who do not really examine their conscience very often, and so they seldom see “what’s the big deal?” about sin or wrongdoing.
Most of us go in between. It also depends on whether we were raised in a home where we were made to feel guilty over a lot of things. Even after you grow up, you still “hear voices” or feel affected by the upbringing of your elders to the point that you hear their counsels repeating in your head. Some folks were pretty neglected in their moral upbringing so they hardly hear anyone’s voice telling them that they have done wrong or could do better the next time.
Catholics accept the faith of the Church, which says that when we repent and confess with the intention to change, we truly are objectively forgiven so there is no need to dwell on the past. At the same time, as Catholics, we accept the hardship, or penance, that certain sins will linger in our memory and, subjectively, personally, we will not “feel” forgiven.
To use an example, as a child, I was not sensitive to the suffering of animals. We owned cats and dogs, and at times I mistreated the cats. If my parents caught me, I was punished. So, when they weren’t looking, sometimes I would be mean to the cats—nothing terrible, just mean. Later on, I was told this was a sin in catechism, and so I confessed it and made a choice to be compassionate and kind to animals.
Still, to this day, I have passing flashbacks, where I remember locking the family cat in a closet for hours, or slapping the cat when no one was looking. And to this day, this behavior haunts me. I say to myself, “I was a stupid kid—what did I know?” or “The cats did scratch me, and I was treating them as a typical child does who is scratched or bitten by a cat.”
Nonetheless, to me, there is simply no justifying being mean to defenseless animals. They say that St. Francis told people it is the devil who causes people to show hatred of animals. I suffer from these memories, since as an adult I’ve grown quite fond of both dogs and cats. I can’t go back to my childhood and do things differently.
Will I ever forgive myself, personally, deep down, for being mean to cats when I was a child? No, I don’t think so. It will always cause me pain to remember those incidents, and I am unfortunate to have a very clear long term memory of those moments. I accept that God forgives us, but he still allows us to suffer recurring pain from our past sins.
It isn’t that God doesn’t want us to heal. It is that this is a consequence of sinful behavior—that there isn’t always a happy resolution to the wrongs of our past. I think part of healing is to accept that healing is not always 100%, if that makes any sense.
Memory afflicts us. The past haunts us at times. A Christian can complain about this reality, or simply say, “Lord, thank you for letting me experience recurring guilt for my past deeds. Perhaps it will help me to truly abhor sin and stop offending you.” God bless and take care, Fr. Angel