Lack of receiving or giving forgiveness, a key metric in the GPS Spiritual Inventory©, results in lower scores in emotional regulation, vulnerability, listening to others, feeling what others feel, loving action, communication with God, nearness to God, and trust in God. Forgiveness is the key to unlocking your spiritual health, which is defined as the degree to which we receive God’s love for ourselves and share it with others.
When you can receive and give forgiveness, your relationship with God, self, and others all open up to deeper, more loving relationships. Lack of forgiveness is like a clog in your soul that keeps God’s love from flowing through you.
Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). There is a relationship between judging/condemning/forgiving others and our own judgment/condemnation/forgiveness. Let me suggest that our ability to withhold judgment and condemnation, and forgive others, depends on the degree to which we can do the same for ourselves. It begins with accepting that God does not judge or condemn you. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) Most Christians accept this intellectually but struggle to accept it in the depths of their souls.
If we do not deeply and fully accept God’s acceptance of us, then accepting ourselves is a great challenge. The result of this lack of self-acceptance is the lack of acceptance of others. As the scripture says, “Love your neighbor as yourselves.” It is a command, yes, but it is also a truth. We love our neighbors as ourselves. If we do not love ourselves well we will not love our neighbors well. And for us to love, we must accept. We can’t love people where they aren’t; only where they are. The same applies to ourselves. We can only love ourselves truly as we are right now. The things we don’t accept about ourselves lead us to not accept those same things about others.
I will give you an example. I realized that I was judging people who struggled with their weight. The deeper realization was that I was ashamed of my own body. My struggle was really a lack of self-acceptance. The shame of self tends to be expressed as the judgment of others.
One of the key test items on the GPS Spiritual Inventory© is to what degree you agree with the statement “I know that I am a work in progress and love myself as I am right now.” Testers that score low on this question tend to score low on their empathy scores. They are related. If you can see yourself as a work in progress and love yourself as you are right now—not just when you get to the perfect weight!—you will be able to see others as works in progress and love them as they are right now.
So how do we get to a place of self-acceptance? You have to stop judging and condemning yourself for not being perfect. Doing so shuts down your self-empathy. Judgment and condemnation shut down the parts of our brain that allow for empathy to happen. Empathy is the pathway that love comes down. If the road is closed, love cannot travel. But how do we stop judging and condemning ourselves? We must learn to forgive ourselves. Yes, God has already forgiven us, but we have to take what God has given us and apply it to ourselves regularly.
Consider writing down everything you don’t like about yourself. Then look yourself in the mirror and say, “I forgive you for…” Forgiveness is a practice. It may take time. The battlefield of self-forgiveness is in the way you talk to yourself. Learn to speak to yourself as if you are someone whom you deeply love. Do not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your spouse or children, or your parishioner, of your coaching client.
Also, consider speaking to a coach or counselor about the list you created. Self-acceptance can come from being accepted. We need help! God gives us this, but most of us have to experience it from another human being as well. When we speak the truth about ourselves, especially the things we don’t accept, and another person hears us and accepts us, forgiveness comes more easily, and with forgiveness comes healing, and with healing comes acceptance, and with acceptance comes love.
Consider scheduling a spiritual health coaching session to work on self-acceptance issues to begin to unlock your spiritual health.