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Breaking Free of Guilt

Updated on June 17, 2015

Breaking Free of Guilt

Jesus came to cleanse us from sin, but also to set to us free from the guilt caused by it. True guilt refers to being at fault and deserving punishment. It's the result of any action contrary to the will of God for which a penalty must be paid to receive forgiveness.

There's two kinds of guilt mentioned in the Bible. There's Godly sorrow that leads a person to repentance.

"For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Corinthians 7:10).

This is generally known as conviction sent by the Holy Spirit. Once a person repents, they are forgiven for sins which brought the guilt feelings. Then there's accusations from Satan who continually torments people by reminding them of their past.

Cultivating Guilt

Guilt is cultivated by allowing yourself to dwell on past sins. Satan loves to keep throwing them in our face. We must not allow him to develop a stronghold on our minds. A stronghold of guilt is usually accompanied by an incorrect perception of oneself, or of God.

If a stronghold exists, feelings of guilt may not immediately disappear because strongholds need to be torn down by the renewing of your mind.

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God"(Romans 12:2).

Conviction and Condemnation

Some believers have trouble with these issues because they live by their emotions. Facts seem more trustworthy than feelings. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. What is the difference between condemnation and conviction?

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).

Jesus also assured us He came into the world not to condemn it but save it.

"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved"(John 3:17).

However conviction is another matter. The Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts when we accept Christ as Lord. He teaches us those things which are detestable to God. Conviction is the desire to live the way God intended. The Holy Spirit will teach us right from wrong.

Oddly enough, we love to wallow in our guilt and shame. But guilt is one of the most destructive emotions we have. It's useless to anguish over things we can't change.

Is there anything good about guilt? When we do something wrong doesn't our conscience bother us? Guilt feelings prompt us to change, modify our behavior and make amends. The problem is not many can do this. This is evident by the pain everyone feels over something they have done wrong, didn't do, or should have done.

Unresolved Guilt and Shame

Unresolved guilt can cause drug abuse, alcoholism, depression and other self destructive behavior. There is a direct correlation between guilt, shame and self-worth. Guilt is when we feel bad about something we have done.

Shame on the other hand, is a negative, painful, social emotion resulting from comparison of standards. Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. Although sometimes considered an emotion, shame may also variously be considered an effect, cognition, state, or condition.

Have you ever noticed no one is completely satisfied with themselves? There's always something, some physical flaw, that makes us feel imperfect. We are too thin, too fat, our nose is too big, the list is endless.

Unfortunately, we associate this "bad list" with our self-worth. We feel we aren't as good as we should be, therefore we feel shame. We have all seen how destructive this can be. The enemy of our souls is the “accuser,” and he will try and insert these negative thoughts into our minds. We need to be on guard for this.

False Guilt

False guilt is when you blame yourself for something even though you haven't done anything wrong, regardless of whether you have confessed or not. Ironically, false guilt can't be resolved by confession. That's because it's one of Satan's destructive weapons, shame, fear, and anger.

The Bible tells us Satan often disguises himself by masquerading as an angel of light, or spokesman for God. He heaps undeserved guilt upon us.

False guilt is usually fear of disapproval in disguise, putting us on a never-ending treadmill of uncertainty. People driven by false guilt often feel they have to be perfect to avoid criticism and disappointing others.

False guilt comes from a guilt-ridden conscience, a person is incapable of self-acceptance and doesn't believe God accepts them. Nothing is ever good enough in their own eyes, the goal is just always out of reach. Scripture is clear all humanity is guilty before God. Romans 3:19 tells us no one is righteous.

When it comes to feeling guilty, we must know the difference between true and false guilt. It's possible to be innocent of something yet feel guilty about it. False guilt has at least two origins: ourselves and Satan. A weak conscience is fundamentally an uninformed conscience and can easily produce false guilt.

There are those who believe they’re somehow on continuous probation before God. They think if they continually work towards perfect adherence to His rules they'll gain His acceptance. It’s an easy trap we should avoid. True guilt originates with the Holy Spirit.

Breaking Free from Guilt and Shame

Guilt is a gift God has given us to discern right from wrong. However, unresolved guilt can lead to mental and spiritual bondage. It's God’s way of alerting us when we have strayed off course and done wrong. We should never forget, Satan condemns but the Holy Spirit convicts. Sometimes this can be hard for new Christians to discern. Satan wants us to feel condemned when we miss God’s mark. He will take our guilt and use it to accuse us.

Guilt, fear, anger, jealousy, none of these are necessarily bad. These emotions have their place. Make no mistake. Shame isn't the same as guilt. Guilt results from our wrong actions. Shame is something we are taught and we perpetuate it by thinking we are unworthy of forgiveness.

Living Guilt Free Guilt makes us miserable. Many repress it so they can adequately function in daily life. This isn't healthy and not the proper way to deal with it. The results will be anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Our friends and loved ones don't want us to inflict these things upon ourselves. Often we may feel guilty over something we said or did, when in actuality no one even noticed.

If you have truly wronged someone, accept it, apologize, and then do your best to make amends. We may punish ourselves with “what if" type questions. This type of guilt results in self sabotage, and there's nothing we can do about it. A guilt complex is fed by a need for acceptance and is an acquired behavior. Most of us learn it in childhood.

Many find forgiving themselves difficult. They stay stuck in the past or in a negative state of mind because they choose not to move forward. Different choices produce different outcomes. Some things like being rude to someone can be easy to forgive.

However, sometimes we have to make life altering choices that can negatively impact those around us. We have all done things we are ashamed of. Sometimes we bury it and pretend it isn't there. At times it rides just beneath the surface, ready to explode. Health problems, can all have their root cause here.

So when we realize we have sinned, and are feeling shame, what do we have do to receive God's forgiveness? Part of forgiveness involves restitution. Unfortunately it's impossible for us to make restitution to God. The good news is Jesus Christ made restitution on our behalf. This is why Christ had to suffer and die. Without that there can be no forgiveness.

What happens if, after asking God's forgiveness, we still feel guilty? We need to realize it's one of Satan's lies. Don't fall for it. After receiving forgiveness, we are no longer guilty before God.

Guilt can be a powerful motivator. It can also be paralyzing. When guilt leads to repentance and acceptance of forgiveness it is a good thing. When guilt condemns and depresses it's a bad thing. Regardless of background all humans bear some amount of guilt. This comes from our original sin and is inescapable.


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