Whew – we’ve been having a great time on FaceBook live for the past two weeks. If you haven’t joined us LIVE yet, come this Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 PM ET for another 30 minutes of teaching and Q & A. We will be learning how to deal with a toxic and destructive person, the very thing we tackle here in this blog. To stop by, simply go to Leslie Vernick Fan Page. Click here.
There's been a wonderful response to our CONQUER conference. Registration is now open and I’d love to meet you all in person. For more information about when, where and what it is exactly, click here.
I love this group. Reading through all your compassionate comments and care for one another blesses me deeply. I am so grateful that God has given me this platform and that you are so ready to help one another with the hard earned lessons you’ve learned in the trenches of suffering. Here is another stuck sister. Let’s help her get unstuck.
Question: I have been divorced for over ten years. My husband is re-married. I am having trouble with the guilt I feel for not handling the marriage well and not learning the things you recommended. How do I live day by day, knowing that in many ways I failed?
Answer: My heart goes out to you. I hear the pain you feel in your short question. It’s tempting to look backward in life, rehearsing past mistakes and regretting past failures. We all have them.
But I want you to understand this important truth. No one, except Jesus, gets through life without failures and regrets. The Old Testament patriarch Abraham had them, Moses had them, King David had them, the disciple Peter had them, and the apostle Paul had them. Therefore, you are in good company. The real question I need to help you with is how to get beyond regret and guilt so that you can live life more fully today and tomorrow instead of living with the past in front and center in your mind.
First, let me commend you for already starting the change. You asked how do I live now in light of my failures and mistakes? That’s a crucial question because how you answer it can propel you out of self-hatred and/or self-pity and into an entirely different mindset.
There are three things you will need to learn to move forward. The first is self- acceptance, the second is self-compassion and the third is courage. Let me break each of these down for you.
Self-Acceptance: You might think you need to forgive yourself for your past failures but that is not the real issue here. Friend, it is not your lack of self-forgiveness that has kept you stuck.
Rather it is your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your lack of acceptance when you mess up. In a backward's way, your pride has been wounded. You are disappointed that you weren’t better or didn’t do better. You deeply regret that you failed and messed up in your marriage. But the truth is, you didn’t know how to do it better or didn’t learn what you needed to learn back then.
The grip of self-hatred for being flawed and imperfect has infected your life and your future life. Once you accept that you are an ordinary imperfect, beautiful but broken human being, disappointment over your mistakes and failures no longer has the same power over you.
Now, that same emotional energy can be used to humbly ask for forgiveness from God and others where necessary. Instead of hating yourself for your sins, failures, and weaknesses, now you can learn from them so you grow and don’t continually repeat your mistakes.
It’s time to experience what you so desperately crave, God’s love and forgiveness for your sinful, imperfect self. That can only come when you accept that you need it.
Self-Compassion: If you had a good friend who messed up her marriage like you did, what would you say to her? I suspect you might be a whole lot more compassionate towards her than you’ve been towards yourself.
I think we fear being compassionate towards our self because we think if we’re compassionate, it must mean what we did wasn’t that bad. Or if we don’t ruthlessly beat ourselves up, we won’t take responsibility for what we did wrong and learn what we need to learn from our mistakes.
But that’s not true. Having compassion towards yourself is not poor-me, self-pitying, I’m a victim thinking. Rather, it accepts with grace the truth that we are a limited, finite, beautiful but broken human being who doesn’t know everything, doesn’t do everything right and sometimes blows it big time.
Self-compassion still compels us to take responsibility for our own mistakes, sins, and failures. And, and where possible, correct them, make amends to others and change. It models Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery when he says to her compassionately yet truthfully, “Go and sin no more”. Whose words do you think had more impact on her? Whose words compelled her to change her ways? Christ’s words or the words of the judgmental, shaming, condemning crowd who wanted to stone her?
About a year ago I invited counselor Kim Fredrickson to write a blog for me from her new book, Give Yourself a Break: Turning your Inner Critic into Your Compassionate Friend. For more help on what it is to be compassionate towards yourself, I encourage you to read her words.
Courage: It’s time for you to stop looking backward's and start looking forward. You are not done with life. You still have a purpose. Satan may have gained ground in your earlier years but don’t let him score now.
There is a world of difference between making a mistake and being a mistake, from failing at something to failing at life. (Tweet that)
Mistakes and failures are not statements about who you are. Rather they give us information about what we did or didn’t do and motivation on what we need to do differently so we don't repeat those same past mistakes and failures. They are hard lessons learned but if we learn them, then they were valuable and we can be grateful. Sometimes, as Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life, the things we are most ashamed about when we lived in our own strength become transformed into ministry with God’s strength.
You can live in the now, day by day, with courage. Courage to believe that God loves you and forgives you. Courage to believe that God still has a plan for your life. Courage to take small steps forward in building your new life as a single woman. Courage to pursue who and what God has called you to be in this season. Courage to ask for help if you still feel stuck.
Surround yourself with people who are a little further along on the journey. Studies show that when people are looking to make a significant change, it helps to have others that will cheer us on and bandage our bruises.
From now on, don’t let your guilt or regret stop you. Instead, learn from it to discover the necessary stepping-stones that will lead you to make the changes that lead to abundant life (John 10:10).
Friends, what helped you learn to let go of guilt and regret?