Guilt. It is something that plagues each one of us. Show me a person who does not experience guilt and I will show you someone who is either dead or a sociopath. It is not pleasant to be weighed down with guilt. It is oppressive. It is suffocating. It is distracting. I wonder how much time we spend each day battling guilt.
I encourage people to be free from guilt. A person calls me with emotions connected to some distant event. They are tormented by what ifs. Or, there is that strong people-pleasing tendency in many people that suffers guilt whenever a person seems to be disappointed by that person’s actions or response. Oftentimes, people do not want to be free from guilt. It provides an identity for them. The tricky part is that we oftentimes don’t realize there are different forms of guilt with each requiring a different response. Discerning the exact nature of the guilt is helpful to knowing how to remove it.
Good guilt. God uses this guilt to change and convict us. It is good for us. Good guilt is an emotional response to the conviction that occurs in our hearts when we do something bad. We lie to someone resulting in guilt. The guilt remains until we confess to God and if necessary the other person. In the event we do not confess, our consciences grow hard. We should not suppress this guilt. It benefits us. Its purpose is to keep us close to God.
False guilt. Imagine someone invites you to coffee. Yet, you are not able to attend because you have something else planned for that time. When you talk to the person they lament how much they would have enjoyed getting together with you. The person expresses disappointment. As you get off the phone you feel guilt. This is false guilt. You did nothing wrong. You legitimately could not make the appointment. This guilt arises from someone else making you feel bad over some expectation. This guilt is not helpful to us. It prompts us to be people-pleasers by making sure we never disappoint someone. Run from this guilt!
Identity guilt. Identity guilt attacks the character of a person. Some people have a narrative in their mind that nothing they do or say is good. Typically, they have been beaten up in life; therefore, they begin to believe they are worthless. In their minds, they begin to think their existence is a waste. As a result, they do not seek help from others. They do not socialize. They are depressed. This guilt focuses on blessings and self-worth. They do not believe anything good should happen to them because they are “worthless.” When something good does occur, they feel guilt because they do not believe they deserve it. This guilt is very damaging as it assaults our identity in God. God creates us as beautiful. God celebrates our uniqueness. Blessings are poured on us because He loves us. We should celebrate this not feel bad about them. Discard this guilt from our minds!
Guilt comes in different forms. They key is determining how best to respond. Good guilt leads to freedom and joy; false and identity guilt results in bondage. Christ became guilt so that we would not have to remain in it. Sadly, we continue to wallow in it even through freedom is available.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22