Overcoming Guilt

Overcoming Guilt

The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that “For everyone has sinned.  We all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” [Romans 3:23 NLT]  Therefore, none of us can claim to be without sin. 

Sometimes our sins are hidden and known only by us but sometimes our sins are made public and are known by others.  Whether such sins are known only by ourselves or known publicly, the same emotion of guilt and unworthiness or shame may remain with us.  How do we get past this?

To overcome these emotions, there are various spiritual steps and practical steps (all according to the Bible) that we need to take.

Spiritual Steps (Relationship with God)

Whatever sin we may have committed, the Bible tells us “there is forgiveness of sins for all who repent”. [Luke 24:47 NLT]

Spiritually, repenting means not only recognising the wrongfulness of what we have done, but also taking a decision to turn away from such sin (i.e. to do the best we can not to commit such sin again).  This is the first step towards salvation – turning away from our sins and turning to God.

If you have already given your life to Christ (i.e. you are already born-again), then 1 John 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Do not fall into the Satanic lie that since you have committed a sin that you feel guilty or ashamed of (having given your life to Christ), that your relationship with God has ended (i.e. you have lost your righteousness) and that you have failed as a Christian.  Simply confess your sin to God and God will forgive you and your relationship with God continues (you do not lose your righteousness, i.e. right-standing with God).

If you feel guilty or ashamed of something you have done and have not yet given your life to Christ, then you should make Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour.

Romans 10:9 says: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  You can do this by following the steps at the bottom of this article.

By receiving the gift of salvation from God, all your sins will be forgiven and you will receive eternal life.  Psalm 103:12 tells us: “He [God] has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”  In other words, once God has forgiven our sins, such sins will never attach to us again (in other words whatever God forgives is forgiven forever).

In Jeremiah 31:34, God says: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”  In other words, God not only forgives, but He also forgets our sins.

The problem is, as human beings, we have brains with a memory and we can’t delete our memories.   Therefore, even if God has forgiven us and doesn’t even remember our sins, we still do, and we feel guilty or ashamed.

Having been forgiven by God, we should forgive ourselves.

Galatians 5:14 [NLT] says: “For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

We can only love our neighbour if we first love ourselves.  Loving oneself means even though we recognise our mistakes, we are willing to forgive ourselves.  If we do not forgive ourselves but allow feelings of guilt and shame to overwhelm us, these emotions may give birth to bigger problems in our lives.  There are many people who have suicidal thoughts or abuse alcohol or abuse drugs (or engage in other forms of self-destructive conduct) because of self-hate or guilt they cannot overcome.

We cannot overcome these feelings on our own without addressing the fundamental questions of life: who am I; and why am I alive?

The answers to these questions lie in who we are in Christ.  Without knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour and the position that God has given us as His redeemed children (out of His love and mercy upon us), we will never find inner peace.  The world can teach us psychological means of coping (or engaging in alcohol or drug abuse can temporarily relieve us from these emotions) but it is only in Jesus that we will find true peace.  It is only then that we will be able to love ourselves (not in a vain, worldly way) knowing that we are forgiven and knowing who we are in God’s eyes.

It is this peace that Jesus was referring to in John 14:27 NLT: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Practical Steps (Relationships with Fellow Man)

In addition to the spiritual steps referred to above, the Bible also teaches us to take practical steps in our relationships with others.

Matthew 5:23-24 [NLT]: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

In other words, we should not only focus on our relationship with God, but also in mending our relations with those we have offended.  In short, if you have offended someone, admit your wrongdoing and seek that person’s forgiveness.  Romans 12:18 [NLT]: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

Taking this step also has a psychological benefit – by seeking the offended person’s forgiveness (in obedience to what the Bible teaches), we physically create a new positive memory in our minds of trying to put right what we did wrong.  So, whenever the old (negative) memory of wrongdoing and guilt / shame comes up, the brain will also associate it with the positive memory of seeking forgiveness.  That way, the negative emotions associated with the negative memory will be countered by the positive memory (and positive emotion) of putting right what we did wrong.  In the process, we are set free emotionally.  We will have this emotional release even if the other person refuses to forgive (which is not something within our control).

What if you never get the opportunity to seek forgiveness from the person you offended?  1 John 3:20 NLT: “Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”  God will not hold it against you that you did not have the opportunity to seek forgiveness.

How Do You Receive Christ into Your Life?

If you would like to receive the gift of salvation that God has for you today, make a decision in your own heart that you want to be forgiven of your sins and that you wish to turn your back on a sinful life. Believe in the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ [Mark 1:15]. The Bible says if you confess with your mouth (i.e. actually say it) that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, you will receive salvation [Romans 10:9-10]. Salvation is open to any human being who calls upon the name of the Lord [Romans 10:12-13].

If you want to get saved right now:

First silently read the text in the paragraph below and make sure you understand it. It is a confession prayer you can use to get born again this very moment.

If in your heart you agree with the content of the statement below then, read it again, but this time say it with your mouth out loud as you read it:

“Father, I thank You that you sent Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to take my sins and my punishment.  Lord Jesus, I believe that You died for me and that God raised You from the dead.  Today I confess that You are my Lord and my Saviour.  Father, forgive me of all of my sins.  Thank You Father that today, by Your grace, I am born again, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Did you say the above prayer sincerely to receive Jesus Christ into your life? If so, please click on “yes” below to get guidance on what to do next.