“How can you trust him?” Chris asked, hesitating on my proposition. He had been burned one too many times in the past, which cooked a skeptical crust that shielded his gooey insides.
“He’s not that kind of a guy, dude. I promise.” I persuaded him to let me invite a homeless man live with us. After ten months, he relapsed and stole $3,000 of our stuff–mostly of Chris’s music gear. (You can read more about that story here.)
I was out of state for Warped Tour when I picked up the phone to a stranger telling me what happened. In that moment, I couldn’t have made my eyes blink even if I wanted to. My face flushed hot red. I walked away from my tent–jaw slacked in total disbelief.
After a few laps around a lot behind the venue, I surfaced from the shock. Immediately, I blamed myself. I felt like his actions were my responsibility. I told him from the beginning I was going to help him get a job, get a place, and get his own life back. I told Chris from the beginning he was trustworthy. And I didn’t do enough to fulfill what I has promised. This was my fault.
If I were to roll out the details for you, you’d probably think I was absurd. I invited a homeless man off the street, gave him my clothes, gave him open access to my fridge, gave him our entertainment room to sleep in, picked him up at three in the morning when he called lost and drunk, gave him money when he got robbed, prayed with him, drove him to his job, helped him get applications and fill them out, helped him get another job when his first one didn’t work out, took him to recovery meetings, picked him up when he was down, paid for him to come on a retreat with me, reminded him that he could never be too far gone for God even when he felt like he was unforgivable and unlovable. And I loved him. Close.
All of that being said, I still blamed myself when he decided to stick a needle in his arm, rob us, and try to kill himself. He had years of wrong decision, wrong turns, wrongs others did to him, and wrongs he did to others notched in his belt. He wasn’t homeless by happenstance, and he wasn’t addicted to heroine because he fell on a needle. He made choices to get where he was, and others influenced him as well.
In blaming myself, I took responsibility for everything that led up to that decision. The abuse from his father, neglect from his family, bullying from kids at his school. The alcohol and drug abuse, the violence, the laziness, the self-hate, the depression, the crime. It’s my fault that HE chose to relapse, that HE chose to take duffle bags full of our belongings, and that HE chose to buy the drugs to overdose.
And though I may seem crazy, some of you struggle with self-hate for things that weren’t your fault either. When they abused you–physically, verbally, mentally, sexually.
I didn’t go through the same thing, but I blamed myself too. I said, “Why didn’t I…” too many times to count. I replayed all the situations I thought I could have changed the outcome. “If I just hadn’t… If I just wasn’t…”
Forgiving myself wasn’t easy. It took other people looking in and helping me see what I couldn’t see myself. And it took me being willing to let go of the illusion that I’m expected to make perfect decisions in every situation.
The truth is, I did the best with what I had and knew at the time. I didn’t intentionally bring about his relapse or his theft or his attempted suicide. I had to learn to give myself grace for what I didn’t know. I had to let go of what I didn’t do and what someone else chose to do.
No matter what they might have told you, you didn’t try to make them do that to you. You didn’t ask for rape. For abuse. For pain. For tragedy. For years of suffering and self-hate and escape and coping after that. You didn’t.
I’m not pretending to know the layers of your story. But I am saying if you were abused, it wasn’t your fault. Period. Give yourself grace where you didn’t know, and let go of what you didn’t do yourself. That’s not your blame to take.
God doesn’t hold anything against you; you’re not stained. Rather, He smiles at you as He holds you; He’s already cleaned you. You’re fresh, new, loved, accepted. Though in regards to your abuse, you’re actually not forgiven because you don’t need to be. You’ve nothing to be forgiven for. You’re blameless. Let those lies melt away. Embrace the truth that it wasn’t your fault. Because it wasn’t! Because it wasn’t.
Reflect on these questions, and share with us in the comment section below: Are you willing to forgive yourself? What thoughts are keeping you from doing that?
If you have a story where you’ve forgiven yourself, please share with us because it might help someone else going through something similar.