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“We believe that God forgives us when we turn to Him for mercy. But though we receive this forgiveness from the Lord, do we forgive ourselves?...Becoming aware of our sins is a good thing…Yet the devil uses even godly things for evil. As the Accuser, Satan can lure us into the snare of unhealthy self-condemnation. In this deceitful trap, we assume that the accusations of the self have greater power than the mercy of God. Despite the Word of divine forgiveness through the blood of Christ, the devil prevents us from letting go of regrets, memories, and self-reproaches. Under the power of this temptation, we find that though God forgives us, we cannot forgive ourselves. If this self-condemnation grips us, we must not listen to our hearts. We must hear the Word of God as He proclaims His grace to us. In today’s reading, the apostle writes, “God is greater than our heart and knows all things” (1 John 3:20). If the omniscient God can see sins that are hidden even to us, and if He still forgives us for the sake of Christ, then we must believe that divine mercy is far stronger than any guilt or remorse.” (Fr. Basil)

“We know that we are supposed to forgive one another. The other kind of forgiveness is the ability to forgive ourselves…There are people who sincerely repent of sins who have a hard time forgiving themselves. They are beset with guilt and shame. Part of accepting God’s forgiveness is the ability to forgive ourselves. God is either greater than us, or He isn’t. If we believe that God is greater than us, if He can forgive our sins, then we must be able to forgive our own sins…Sadness over sins is a good motivator to not repeat sins. Sitting in guilt and shame leads to self-loathing and spiritual despondency. God wants us to succeed. He wants us to attain salvation. He is willing to forgive when we are willing to repent. We are to continually repent of sins and continually accept His forgiveness. We are to walk with purpose—with faith, hope and joy—not with guilt and shame. God has the capacity to forgive us without limits. We are supposed to have this same capacity to forgive others without limits. And we are supposed to forgive ourselves as well.” (Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis)

“...sin is something that prevents us from loving God fully, not something that prevents God from loving us fully. This difference of focus is often the difference between a relationship with God that breeds a truly contrite heart in which self-forgiveness is possible, or an unhealthy fear of God that breeds a lingering self-condemnation that mistakenly creates a mindset that “God can’t possible love me” which is the farthest thing from the truth.” (Sacramental Living)

“…mercy without repentance is indulgence. And forgiveness without confession is tolerance of sin. But God promises to forgive those who earnestly repent and have deep sorrow for their sins. Moreover, His Word has the power to cut through our guilt, shame, and regret to heal the heart of its self-condemnation…Trusting in this Word, we can stop looking backward with self-reproach. We can press forward in hope toward the goal of our lives, our sharing in the eternal life of the Holy Trinity. We can set down the burden of guilt and remorse, the weight of self-loathing that slows down our spiritual growth. Free of this unnecessary load, we can set out with unhindered steps to walk with the Lord as the forgiven children of God.” (Fr. Basil)

“The proper response to taking such responsibility is to pray and ask forgiveness. Feeling guilty is generally another self-centered action and is not the same thing as asking forgiveness…guilt cannot sustain us for long. While guilt will push us to do good things because they are right, love encourages us to do the right thing because it is natural.” (Father Stephen Freeman, Robert J. Wicks)

“We pray with such extreme language, reflecting not a vision of legal condemnation: rather, it is the recognition of Beauty itself, in Whose Presence we appear broken, soiled, with nothing to recommend us. It is the language of repentance – but not of morbid self-hatred. It is the language of self-forgetting of leaving the self behind, of finding nothing within the self to cling to. There is another word for this self-forgetting: ecstasy. Again, this word has been abused in modern language and now means an extreme emotional state. But its Greek root means to “stand outside of oneself.” Thus the Fathers will speak of God’s ecstasy – His going forth to us. But there is also our ecstasy, as we forget ourselves and rush towards Him.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“…“The beginning of salvation is self-condemnation.”  (You will not find a book in the “Self-Help” section on your local bookstore with this title!) This has nothing to do with an unhealthy “self-hatred.” It means to recognize our sins and need for repentance freed from the useless refuge of “self-justification.”…the real question becomes: what is the foundation or ground of the self? What guarantees its stability and continuity? What prevents the self from being one more fleeting and ephemeral reality, so much “dust in the wind” that goes the way of our bodies? has to be God. Either the self is grounded and stabilized in God, or it is grounded in “nothing.” We are either “God-sourced” or “nothing-sourced.”…Perhaps all of the clamorous cries of “self-affirmation” that we hear today are an instinctive reaction or even rebellion against this inherent nihilism. A godless quest of self-discovery leads to a dead-end encounter with our own nothingness!” (Evagrios of Pontus, Fr. Stephen Kostoff)

“God does not sit up in the sky, setting us impossible tasks we must perform at any cost, no matter how unsuited they may be to our nature and abilities. He doesn’t begrudge our innocent pleasures, or enjoy our failures or mistakes. Humility is not self-hatred, and self-reproach is not neurotic self-obsession…Self-accusation is also a big bear-trap for self-hating…I was reading an article by Elder Sophrony of Essex last week. Someone was asking him about the psychological and emotional problems so prevalent in western life, and whether he felt that secular psychiatry offered any help. He said that, with the exception of syndromes directly attributable to malfunctioning brain chemistry, he felt that psychiatrists often do more harm than good by making people focus too much on themselves and too little on God and their neighbor. He said they begin to concentrate too much on the “designated problem,” often not the real problem anyway, and then try to change it by yet more self-analysis and introspection, which only makes us prey to many kinds of illusion.” (Orthodox nun)

“We can only fight against the spirit of pride, unforgiveness, and self-condemnation with humility, love, and compassion. Humility does not mean bowing and scraping. Rather, it is being nakedly honest with oneself and others. We have to speak the truth in love; but we can only do this in the brutal honesty of humility, seeing our own sins and realizing the other is no different from ourselves. We can address offenses, but if there is no love in our speech and attitude, there is no truth, only facts. And facts do not heal, only love and compassion.” (Hieromonk Jonah)

“…we are much better at this ransacking of ourselves and self-condemnation than we are at accepting the new life of resurrection we are given. This is grace which, despite all our falling away, never disappears and constantly seeks to raise us up. The false self takes it that God is other, elsewhere, up or out there. But as Paul notes, the mystery is Christ within us, our hope of glory (Col 1:27).” (Fr. Richard Rohr, Father Michael Plekon)


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