Forgive Yourself

Do not let mistakes derail working towards your goals. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from the experience, and move forward with renewed commitment to your goals.


Lord, I accept responsibility for the error I have made in pursuing my goals. I forgive myself for that error, and I humbly ask your forgiveness as well. Please, Lord, help me to understand why I made this error, and give me the knowledge and strength to avoid repeating it in the future.


If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37:23–24

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

In any endeavor that requires consistent and long-term effort, it is likely that you will experience moments of weakness, that you will make mistakes, and that you will stray from your goals. Efforts to improve your health and lose weight through fundamental lifestyle changes, such as those discussed on this website, are especially vulnerable to these kinds of lapses. It is important that you consider how you will handle these situations, because they can easily derail the best-laid plans. Rather than letting that happen, learn from these incidents and use them as opportunities to renew your focus and commitment.

When you make any mistake in pursuing the goals you’ve set for yourself – including both little slip-ups (such as skipping a scheduled workout or having an unhealthy meal) and major missteps (such as finding that you’ve abandoned your health plans altogether) – you should forgive yourself, learn from the experience, and move on. Each of these steps is discussed in more detail below.

Forgive Yourself

It is critical to learn to forgive yourself when you err in pursuing your plans and goals. Forgiving yourself can short-circuit the feelings of failure, anger, or guilt that you might feel about a mistake, and will allow you to continue on your path to improved health and appearance.

The Bible is clear about the importance of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It seems reasonable to assume that we should extend to ourselves the same compassion and forgiveness that we are told to extend to others. Even more to the point, Colossians 3:13 tells us to “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” While this does not explicitly say that you should forgive yourself, it is written expansively and thus includes yourself as well as others. It is clear from these passages that God expects all people to be treated with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness – including you.

There are several reasons why forgiveness is so important. Mark 11:25 reveals the primary reason: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” We must ourselves forgive in order to be forgiven by God. And note that this passage says, “if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him.” This includes yourself. Furthermore, if you do not truly forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made, those mistakes continue to control you. The feelings of failure, anger, and guilt that you feel about the mistake consume critical energy and divert attention that should instead be focused on the renewed pursuit of your goals. Finally, there is even evidence that forgiveness has beneficial health effects. Studies suggest that forgiveness can reduce stress, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, help you sleep better, and improve your psychological well-being.

So how do you forgive yourself when you’ve made a mistake? Forgiving yourself does not mean pretending that the incident did not happen. It does not mean making excuses or living in denial. The first step to forgiveness is an honest acknowledgment of the mistake. Accept that it happened, that it is in the past, and that it cannot be changed. You must also accept responsibility for the mistake. This means acknowledging that you were in control when you made the choice, or choices, that you later regretted. Failing to accept responsibility will make it more difficult to learn from your mistake and to make better decisions in the future.

Taking all of these steps should make it possible for you to let go of the feelings surrounding the mistake, to forgive yourself, and to move forward toward your goals. Remember that in Hebrews 13:5, God said that he will never leave you or forsake you. Take comfort in knowing that there is no mistake that you can make while pursuing your goals that could drive God to leave you. If God can forgive you, then you must be willing and able to forgive yourself.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Learning from your mistakes is another extremely important element of forgiving yourself, and it can help you to recover from those mistakes and return to the work you have set out to do. Having accepted responsibility for the mistake, as discussed above, now you must try to figure out why you made the wrong choice in the first place. Once you understand what went wrong, you can avoid the same pitfall in the future. Examine the events leading up to your lapse, and determine where the breakdown occurred. Did you fail to leave enough time in your day to exercise or to prepare a healthy meal? Did you eat bad foods during a time of high stress? Did you fail to plan ahead and end up making a bad choice? Did you simply succumb to the temptation of an appealing dessert?

Once you have identified the likely cause (or causes), you can work to avoid similar situations in the future or to alter your reactions to them. If it was a problem of planning ahead, you will need to focus on your planning. If stress got the better of you, you may need to learn additional stress management skills. Think carefully, pray about, and visualize how you will respond to similar situations in the future. Such “practice” can help you to make better choices and avoid repeating mistakes.

If you realize that you are repeatedly making mistakes for the same reasons, you should pursue additional help with that issue. For example, if it seems that stress is a consistent problem that you are unable to tame on your own, then find other resources to help you, such as books about coping with stress, a stress-management class, or an individual coach or therapist with experience in dealing with stress.

Move On with Renewed Focus and Commitment

Once you have forgiven yourself and have taken whatever lessons you can from the mistake, it is time to leave that mistake behind and get back to work toward your goals. If the issue was only a minor lapse, say a bad meal or a skipped workout, then you can simply pick up where you left off. If the setback was larger, such as if you stopped exercising for an extended period of time, you may need to start over.

In either case, using all of the tools discussed above, move forward in the pursuit of your goals with renewed focus and commitment. Do not let the mistake derail you. Recognize the mistake for what it is: a stumble rather than a fall. Psalm 37:23–24 says that “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” If you pray and are engaging God in this endeavor, improving your relationship with God as you work to improve yourself, he will delight in your way. And though you may stumble, you will not fall.

When you make a mistake in pursuing your health-related goals, you can recite the prayer at the top of this page to help get yourself back on track.

Next: A healing prayer for when you or a loved one is sick or injured.