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Forgiving Ourselves

MOST of us can look on serious mistakes that others have made and feel genuine compassion for the individuals involved, especially when we know there is remorse and reformation at work in their hearts. But sometimes, forgiving ourselves is not quite so easy.

We tend to think, ``How could I ever have . . . ! And the self-condemnation is unrelenting. In our heart we know the mistake is not representative of us. And this is exactly where the healing begins: the mistake is not representative of us, and God knows it is not because He knows that our genuine selfhood is wholly spiritual and without error. As we begin to understand more fully man's God-created identity, we can be free of the ceaseless mental badgering that goes on in our thought.

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Even if it seems that the whole world is standing around pointing fingers at us for our trespasses, we can have confidence that God's constant love still sees us as innocent, because He made man that way. God loves us dearly, and, like a mother who knows that the identity of

her mud-covered child is truly untouched by the mud, God knows that

man's honest, pure, spiritual selfhood is the only self we have. In Habakkuk the Bible says God is ``of purer eyes than to behold evil. If God does not behold evil in us, as His pure child, neither should we.

When Christ Jesus was presented with a woman accused of adultery, he did not condemn her. Instead, John's Gospel tells us, he diffused the self-righteousness of her accusers by saying, ``He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. After they had all left without throwing stones, he turned to the woman and with compassion said, ``Go, and sin no more. He never condemned her. He must have seen man's God-given spiritual innocence despite evidence to the contrary, and this changed the

woman's life. This same spiritual innocence is what God sees in you and me. True forgiveness always operates to heal and regenerate.

Self-condemnation is much like the serpent, whom we first meet in the Bible in the book of Genesis, and who eventually grows to the wild proportions of the great red dragon in the book of Revelation. We must not allow the serpent of self-condemnation to grow into a dragon that would devour everything good about us!

Evil is always an accuser, accusing us of all kinds of ungodlike things. But the truth that Christ Jesus has brought to us--that man is not a sinner but is the beloved child of God-- perpetually casts down this accuser and destroys its accusations. Let's not hang on to the charges evil brings against us! Evil would claim to be a power equal, or superior, to God. But we can deny power to this lie by not agreeing with it.

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Though it may take much courage and effort, we must be unrelenting in our stand against evil's accusations. This kind of courage is spiritual strength, and it is supplied by God to anyone who is earnestly seeking to live in obedience to Him.

But what if after persistent effort we find that we still cannot forgive ourselves? Then we must wholeheartedly put our hand in God's and let Him reveal what still needs healing in thought. It is a time for gentle surrender, for yielding to divine Love's tender, correcting power, which always uplifts and purifies and brings a relief-filled peace to the heart. We must trust ourselves to His guidance in this.

Through these difficult experiences, we become a little wiser and a little more understanding and forgiving of the mistakes of others. But more than anything else, we become more God-centered in our day-to-day living. In learning from our mistakes, perhaps the one thing we learn more than anything else is how very much we need God, how much we long to fill our every thought, motive, ambition, purpose, with God-impelled thought and action.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Sorrow has its reward. It never leaves us where it found us. The furnace separates the gold from the dross that the precious metal may be graven with the image of God.

Precious metal . . . fine gold . . . that's truly what we are. Let's be patient with ourselves. We all wish we didn't make mistakes, and we wish we didn't have to pay the consequences for our actions. But if we persist in the search for Truth--for what God knows to be true about us--we will find that our true righteousness far outshines the mistakes we have left behind, no matter how major they might seem. And the blessing of our search for a deeper understanding of our spiritual identity will recompense

us for our efforts in ways that truly restore and redeem and bless not only ourselves but also those around us.

And we'll find that the dismal void of self- condemnation and regret is filled with a peace so deep that we'll know we've come home at last to our God-given right to joy--joy undimmed by human experience. And our innocence, as the child of God, will be clear. BIBLE VERSE

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

I John 3:2, 3

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