I found this in one of MacArthur’s books this morning while I was preparing my lesson outline. I see this so often that it jumped off the page at me. Emphasis added. It takes time.
What If I Cannot Forgive Myself?
I realize there are some who teach that a kind of self-forgiveness is necessary. I find this nowhere in Scripture. I’ve met many people who claim to be unable to forgive themselves, but on careful examination this usually turns out to be a kind of sinful pride exacerbated by modern self-esteem philosophy. The person who complains about not being self-forgiving is often simply looking for flattering or consoling words from others as a way of salving the hurt that guilt has caused to their pride.
Jay Adams offers good insight into this question. He writes:
The problem is not self-forgiveness. Their expressed agony stems from the very fact that, in the worst way, they want to forgive themselves. They want to put it all behind them, they want to bury it once and for all. â€¦
The problem is that people who talk this way recognize something more needs to be done. Forgiveness is just the beginning; it clears away the guilt. They also recognize that they are still the same persons who did the wrongâ€”that though they are forgiven, they have not changed. Without being able to articulate it, and using instead the jargon they have heard all around them, they are crying out for the change that will assure them they will never do anything like it again. When, as a counselor, I help them to deal with the problems in their lives that led to the wrong, in such a way that they lead a more biblical lifestyle, I then ask, “Are you still having trouble forgiving yourself?” Invariably, they say no.ï»¿
MacArthur, J. (1998). The freedom and power of forgiveness (electronic ed.) (190). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.