Note: This post first appeared in 2018 but has been updated.
When I was 18 I did something that I’ve often regretted. It was totally out of character for me and every time I think of it I feel shame. I’ve prayed for forgiveness many times but it still haunts me. I wish I could go back and change what I did but I can’t.
Can you relate? You want to forget your mistakes, forgive yourself and move on but it’s hard.
Maybe you’re divorced. Maybe you were sexually promiscuous before you were married. Maybe you had an affair or broke someone’s heart because you were selfish. Maybe you said some unkind things to someone you care about or led someone else down a wrong path. Maybe you made bad financial decisions.
You know you can’t go back and change things, but how do you let go, forgive yourself and move on?
While you can’t go back and relive the past, there are some things you can do to prevent your past from hi-jacking your present.
Name it. This is the first step to leaving it behind. ‘I committed adultery.” “I said unkind things.” “I chose not to listen to good financial advice.”
You can’t overcome something you deny exists.
Were you ignorant? Rebellious? Self-willed? Selfish? Understand yourself at that point. When you understand why you did what you did it will be easier to forgive yourself and move on.
Don’t allow your past mistakes to determine your value. Seek to see yourself as God sees you. He placed infinite value on you that is based on who you are not how you perform.
Get it out of your system by processing it with someone. Cry over it. Talk about it. Journal. Give the whole situation to God. Jesus died for your mistakes at Calvary. They belong to Him now. Let Him have them.
Write down what you should have done instead. What have you learned from this experience? How does it help you understand yourself and other people? Learning from your mistakes will help you avoid the same mistakes in the future.
from God and others. Seeking forgiveness can be humiliating but it is good for the soul and sets you free. Accept God’s forgiveness by faith, not feeling. Don’t listen to the lie that you are too bad to be forgiven or that you haven’t lowered yourself enough to be forgiven. And every time that “thing” pops up to haunt you, claim your forgiveness again.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself. If God can forgive you, then you can forgive you.
and then accept that you’ve done all you can. Let the mistake go and accept it as part of your life that you cannot change. It’s part of what makes you who you are. You can use this to help others. God will use it for good.
Part of learning from our mistakes is not making those same mistakes again. Choose to be different. By God’s grace you can do a 180 and walk in a different direction. Surrender yourself to God daily so that you can receive His power to live a new life.
Related: 4 Ways to Grow as a Christian
Find some good that has come from it. Choose to let go of regret and shame. Choose to forgive yourself because Christ forgave you and if He can, then you can. That mistake has made you rich in experience and given you depths of understanding that you wouldn’t have had without it.
How can you help others avoid the mistakes you made? Use your mistakes to lift others up. Make a difference in someone else’s life. Share your story. Share what God has done for you and what He wants to do for others.
Christ offers us new beginnings. Grab hold of yours today and don’t let the mistakes of the past hijack your present.
You are not who you were back then. You are a new creature in Christ.
“And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…” Revelation 21:5