“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”  Carl Gustav Jung

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep” Jn 21:17

A few years ago, I experienced a tremendous betrayal that changed my life forever.  Since then, I have spent a lot of time “working” to forgive my betrayer and trying to understand what that means.  I have come to know that forgiveness is essential to my wellbeing and to my being open to true love – both in the giving and receiving.

As I pray for a deeper connection with God, I find His response to my desire oddly intertwined with a deeper connection to my “wounded” self.  It is as if God is holding up a mirror to all of my shame, hurts, insecurities and failures (as well as my gifts), asking me to lovingly accept this flawed person, just as He does. Richard Rohr calls this the “true self.”  As these unhealed hurts and failings from my past (and present) keep bubbling up, it seems that I am being asked to forgive myself not just those who have hurt me.  This is intensely difficult for me to do, but I find the scriptural quote from John 21 provides a roadmap.
It seems clear in this passage that Jesus is offering Peter a way back to him after Peter’s sickening betrayal. The risen Christ asks Peter three times if he loves him, and Peter responds three times that he does indeed love him.  The first two times, Christ uses the Greek word “agape” for love – the love of God- but each time Peter replies with “phileo” - the love of man - and Jesus too uses the word “phileo” the third time He asks Peter.  It is as if Peter is shamefully aware of his inability to love as he wished he could have- as God loves- rather, he can only love in his own imperfect, human way.  In his vulnerability before his beloved friend and Messiah, he knows that Jesus too is aware of his failing.  And Christ’s third-time response using “phileo” for love is an acknowledgment that for God, even this human, imperfect love from his beloved creature is enough.  It is enough for Christ, and he builds his church around this failed but forgiven human, giving him the profound experience of being healed back to the Body of Christ (literally and figuratively) by being asked by Christ to “feed my sheep.”  In Peter’s forgiveness from Christ and for himself, he found his profound purpose and goes on to greatness and martyrdom – demonstrating an “agape” love.
We believe that this gift of forgiveness was also available to Judas, but he chose not to let Jesus into his shame and hurt, allowing himself to be loved back into life and purpose.  Judas’ ego would not let him forgive himself, to see himself as he truly was – flawed but loved.
Just as it is not possible to truly love others without being able to forgive them their imperfections, their failures, their causing pain (whether or not they meant to do so), it is not possible for me to love myself without forgiving my infinite imperfections, my huge ego, my continuing to commit the same sin, making poor decisions, failing to love others… What we do unto others we do unto ourselves and very much the other way around, if we hate ourselves, then we hate others.  And Jesus commands us to, “love others as you love yourself.”
Secular psychology has coined the phrase, “moral injury” as a descriptor for the experience of a person suffering from profound emotional shame and trauma from an act they perpetrated, participated in or witnessed, which went against their deeply held moral beliefs.  This is the term being used especially for those who were involved in the Iraq war.  The suicide rate continues to be very high from this war, even amongst those receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Syndrome.  Medical professionals now realize that the wounds these soldiers are carrying inside are not responding to “typical” therapy.  These professionals have been reaching out to churches and pastors asking for help, as these soldiers have suffered a deep breach within their very souls.  They cannot accept what they have done to others and themselves, just as Judas could not accept what he had done.  Interestingly, what seems to be providing the most “healing” to these wounded veterans is not only acknowledgement and forgiveness of their shame and trauma, but an opportunity for meaningful and profound “atonement” to the people involved-if possible- or, if not, then to others who could benefit from their help or service. (Hmm, this sounds a bit like “confession and penance” in the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation or part of a “Twelve-step” program.)
Jesus, the Great Healer, offered Peter an opportunity for self-forgiveness and atonement, not because Christ required this to love Peter, but rather because God is intimately aware of what the human psyche and the human heart needs.  If I want to know true love (God), then I know that I must truly forgive and love myself and thus others.  This is a continuum; there is no real separation in the flow of true love.
What are you most ashamed of in yourself? 

Can you ask Jesus to help you forgive yourself and truly love yourself, others and Him?

What kind of “atonement” might help you feel healed back into community with God and others?

Mary Schimmoller

Richard Rohr on Forgiveness - https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/06/forgiveness-how-to-truly-forgive_n_6397176.html