We all feel guilt in the course of our lives. It is the minds way of getting us to reflect upon our behavior. It helps us reexamine our actions so that we do not necessarily have to end up repeating our mistakes over and over. From guilt we can develop a better understanding of right and wrong when it comes to our interactions with society. This is often referred to as appropriate guilt and we need to come to grips with it if we are to grow and move on in our lives. Inappropriate guilt is just that, inappropriate, because it has no rational reason behind it. Say you are going away for the weekend and need to leave the cat with a friend. It’s inappropriate to feel guilty all weekend because you think the cat may be lonely or unhappy with the situation. This guilt, we just have to say, is silly then move on and have a great weekend.
It is appropriate guilt that keeps us prisoners if we do not make a conscious decision to deal with the problem. We need to remember those experiences that cause guilt in life are lessons that help us learn appropriate responses to situations so we don’t have to repeat them. If we are sorry for the situation that may have hurt others, ask the person wronged for forgiveness and let go of the guilt. Accept the fact that you caused someone pain. Be honest with the individual and take your responsibility for the problem and move on. Probably the hardest lesson for us is to believe that there is not more that we need to do to make everything better. If we have done everything necessary, pay restitution, apologize or whatever, then we need to walk away. I’m not saying it is easy to let go of guilt, but letting go is important in our spiritual and emotional growth. To move forward, we can’t always be looking back. Guilt allows us to play those emotional tapes over and over when we could be singing a new tune.
Remember, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, big mistakes, in our journey with God, but He doesn’t cast us aside because of what we have done. That’s the very nature of why Jesus came to earth and died for us. We need a redeemer because we have a sinful nature and carry out sin in our lives. In Hebrews God says, “ I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Hebrews 10: 17,18 If when we ask God to forgive us our sins and He promises He will remember them no more, then why do we hang on to the guilt of those sins? In verse 23 the writer of Hebrews reassures us, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” God is faithful. He does not hold our past against us and He does not hold failures over our heads to threaten us into better behavior. Instead, He forgives, accepts and saves us. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 When God says He forgives our sins, that is a promise so that we may have confidence to draw near to Him. If God forgives, maybe it’s time we forgive ourselves.