This is the perfect time to talk about guilt. Many of us made New Year’s resolutions, and like the average person, failed to keep them. I would encourage you to check out last week’s post – Resolutions: Starting the New with a Bang – if this describes you.
I’ve struggled with guilt all my life, but I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’ve observed people around me, the things they say, and I hear the same thoughts I’ve had myself. I should have done this. If I’d only… Many times we accept blame for things we can’t change or even minor grievances we make up in our minds. This is false guilt.
How should we view guilt?
In order to understand false guilt, we must accept that there is true guilt.
Romans 3:23 says:
We’re all guilty. Violation of God’s laws make us so. We want to do what we want with no consequences, but the fact remains there are consequences. Just as we incur guilt when we break the laws of our land, there are other laws – higher ones – where the same rule holds true.
God has given each of us a conscience and this conscience guides us in doing right. When we become a child of God, we are gifted with the Holy Spirit, which fine tunes our consciences to align with the will and view of God. If we choose to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we’ll be chided. This is true guilt.
Dr. Charles Stanley says the Holy Spirit will convict us of our sins. We aren’t beat down by our guilt, but instead we acknowledge our guilt and move to rectify it.
False guilt is the opposite. It’s what we feel for imagined wrongs or for past wrongs for which we’ve been forgiven. False guilt won’t bring a positive change.
How should we handle false guilt?
We don’t have to go through life with the weight of guilt if we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. But how do we do that?
1. Recognize who we are in Christ.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians:
And in Romans:
Let these verses really sink in. Jesus took our sins and punishment upon himself when He hung on the cross. We are not condemned to carry our baggage forever.
We can do nothing in our own strength, but the Holy Spirit working inside us can accomplish much. Ask for wisdom in knowing the difference in true and false guilt and for help in breaking free. God is faithful to help us when we seek Him earnestly.
3. Learn to recognize the false guilt immediately.
Sometimes I’ll feel guilty without even realizing it. It’s as constant as a physical irritation that stays with me so long I don’t think about it anymore, but we must recognize the problem before we can fix it. The more we attempt to identify it, the better we’ll get each time.
4. Analyze it.
Once we’ve isolated the problem, we can study it – in a healthy way. Figure out what the root cause is for the false guilt. If I feel guilty about the amount of work I got done in a day, I should ask myself why. Am I holding myself to an impossible standard? Is there something in my past that makes me feel this way? Or have I not been feeling well?
5. Address the false guilt.
We can deal with the guilt when we recognize it and know what’s causing it. I have to get assertive with myself when an imagined standard has a hold on me. What does it really matter if I don’t get all my housework done? I can’t imagine God telling me “Depart, for I never knew you. You didn’t clean your house well enough.” He’s more interested in the lives I’ve touched.
6. Pray again.
We can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit, but through Him we can take on the world.
False guilt can be hard to break, but we can break free with the right mindset and with help from God. What about you? How do you handle false guilt? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments.