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Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

I have known many people, down through the years, who have been overwhelmed with guilt. I suppose there is not a person alive who has not experienced the painful feeling of guilt.

I understand that some people assume guilt that is not their own, but, generally speaking, guilt is the feeling of remorse, shame, or sorrow for some wrong thing that we have done. In other words you feel guilt when you are guilty (for example see Genesis 42:21).

If considered in its proper perspective, guilt (as a result of wrongdoing) can actually be a positive experience (See Isaiah 6:1-8). Guilt is the work of our moral nature trying to tell us that we need to get something right. In this light, guilt can lead us to constructive behavior. The problem, and the tragedy, lies in the reality that people sometimes do the wrong thing when they experience guilt.

  • Some try to cover up the problem (Gen. 3:7) - Remember David? His sin with Bathsheba led to other sins to cover up his first sin.

  • Some try to medicate the guilt. They think that if they can just take the right pill, they can achieve relief from guilt.

  • Some try to ignore, hide from, or deny the guilt (Genesis 3:8-10), and it just gets worse, sometimes leading to psychological disorders.

  • Sometimes people try to avoid guilt by avoiding those things that might highlight it, like church, the bible, and faithful Christians. Or, they may go to a church that is only “positive."

  • Some try to shift blame to minimize their guilt (Genesis 3:11-13).

  • Some try to drown it….generally in destructive things (alcohol, drugs, overeating, illicit sex, etc.); and sometimes in beneficial and community oriented things (civic clubs, charitable efforts, humanitarian organizations, work, etc.).

What is the proper thing to do with guilt so that we might rid ourselves of it? Consider the following points, and may you find relief from your pain.

First of all, if you have never been saved, I encourage you to trust Christ now. Realize you are lost, repent, and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior (Acts 17:30; 20:21; John 1:12). This will not only remove the penalty of sin, but also relieve you of its inherent guiltiness.

However, If you are saved, and are troubled by the guilt of wrongdoing, then

  1. The first step in getting rid of guilt is admission. Own up to the fact that you have done wrong. Don’t sugar coat the situation or try to excuse yourself.

  2. The second step is confession. Please read I John 1:9; Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5. Confession involves not only telling God about your wrongdoing, but it implies that you come into agreement with him concerning your sin. In other words, you see your wrong as He sees it, and you abhor it. This is the basic idea behind repentance. You not only are sorry for the wrong, but you turn from it in disgust and dislike. Be careful here. Some try to use I John 1:9 repetitively as a spot remover for emotional guilt. If this is your motive in confession, it is selfish and will do you no good. Your confession must be genuine.

  3. The third step is restitution. If confession gets your heart right with God, then restitution gets it right with your fellow man. If you have harmed or wronged someone, and it is within your power to make it right, then by all means do it. See Luke 19:8 as an illustration of this. This concept also involves forgiving others. Many times, in our wrongdoing we offend and hurt others. In turn, these people attempt and often succeed in hurting us back. In order to be forgiven, we must be willing to forgive (Matthew 6:14,15; 18:21,22).

4. The fourth step is contribution. Even though you may get victory over

guilt, believe me, it will try to resurrect every once in a while and drag you

down. Therefore, may I recommend that you get busy serving God. Living

for and loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength are great

defenses against the re-emergence of guilt in your life.

All of the above points are illustrated in the life of Peter, when he denied Christ. See Matthew 26:69-75 (admission / confession); Luke 24:9-12 (restitution); John 21:15-19 (contribution). If you need further help, contact me.

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