Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Burden of Guilt

Do you struggle with feelings of guilt? It seems that so many people do. It isn't just that people feel guilty when they do something wrong. It is that they can't get over this feeling of guilt. They let the guilt wear on them and become a burden in their life. Why is this? Why do people have difficulty getting past these guilty feelings?
As I was thinking about this topic of guilt, I came across an article on the Internet by Doris Jeanette, Psy.D. The article is titled: "Living a guilt free life for healthy relationships." Here is how the article starts out:
"Guilt is the worst experience
known to humans. It ties us up in knots and makes us feel unworthy and miserable. First let me explain that It is not a real feeling.
It is caused by thinking that we have done something wrong. We think we have done something wrong because we judge ourselves or someone else judges us. A child does not "feel guilty" until someone tells her that she has offended someone or hurt someone's so called "feelings." Psychologically "feeling guilty" is a conditioned response, not an authentic feeling. In other words, we are taught to feel bad and thus guilty when someone judges us..."
There are several things I want to say about this passage:
1. Guilt isn't the worst experience known to humans, sin is. Sin is what causes us to feel the guilt. But guilt can tie people into knots because they don't know how to let go of the guilt. When you do something wrong, it makes you feel guilty because your conscience lets you know that you've done something wrong.
2. Guilt is not about having others make us feel bad, but feeling bad because we know we've done something wrong. It is not something that is 'taught,' but something that is in us to help us move to that place where we again seek to do what is right.
3. Guilt is not designed to be ongoing, but to lead us to Jesus so that we can ask for forgiveness. Once we have admitted our wrong, and received forgiveness, the guilt has served its purpose and needs to be let go.
I like what was said in my Daily Prayer Book (Copyright 2000, by Tyndale) on April 18:
"However much our culture denies the reality and effect of guilt, there are many
today who live under its burden. Many people still have the sense that their lives
are not what they ought to be. This sense of guilt may actually be a gift from
God to help redirect us to God's way...God's greater gift to us is His mercy,
which enables us to start anew..."
Guilt leads us to God, who reminds us that He loves us, and He helps us to start anew. How can you let guilt not be a burden? Take it to the cross of Jesus, where it is forgiven and removed. Then go anew and live your life with joy!