Self-Condemnation And Self-Forgiveness -- By: Everett L. Worthington Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 170:680 (Oct 2013)
Article: Self-Condemnation And Self-Forgiveness
Author: Everett L. Worthington Jr.

Self-Condemnation And Self-Forgiveness*

Everett L. Worthington Jr.

* This is the fourth article in a four-part series, “Virtue in Positive Psychology and Practical Theology,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship, February 7-10, 2012, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Everett L. Worthington Jr. is Professor of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia.

In these four articles, I have argued that psychology is a tool—like linguistic studies, anthropology, or historical research—that can help us understand more of God’s revelation to humans about God’s nature and human nature as it bears the nature of God within it. It is also a tool that directly informs practical theology in strengthening the faithful to live a life of faith (2 Cor. 1:4; 1 Thess. 3:12-13; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 2:1-8) and in binding up the wounds of the brokenhearted (Isa. 61:1). Through psychological science, we can learn more about the imago dei (at least seen through a refracting prism), the human fallen nature, and the redeemed new self, complementing what Scripture shows.

Christians are called to live lives worthy of Christ, lives that hunger and thirst after righteousness, lives in which we seek virtue because we are adopted children of God and in celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection for us. But in the present article we look at the times when we fail to do the good that we want and we do the evil that we do not want (Rom. 7:15-20). We examine times when we simply fail to reach standards that we set for ourselves and yet we cannot get over the self-condemnation we heap upon ourselves, even when we can acknowledge that those standards may be irrational. Self-condemnation can be a barrier to virtue.

I will claim in this article that self-forgiveness is a way to handle self-condemnation. I will suggest that one can help a person forgive himself or herself through seven steps to self-forgiveness, as I illustrate with my own struggles with self-condemnation.

A Brief Word About Helping Others

Psychological science helps us understand the way people really are—at least from the psychological scientist’s particular theoretical point of view. Clinical science, however, is not so much about helping people discover who they really are as it is about hel...

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