Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All: Why You Still Feel Guilty (blog post)
Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All: Why You Still Feel Guilty
One of the saddest realities of human existence is the fact that so many people carry around the unbearable weight of guilt from past mistakes.
The existence of guilt is one of the primary reasons psychologists, counselors, therapists, physicians, pharmacists, and florists stay perpetually busy. People all around the world seek to assuage their guilt through so many things and yet, for the most part, people remain locked in the grip of either ‘guilt’ itself… or the toxins and captors that promised freedom from guilt.
I doubt if this is overstated.
People truly are riddled with guilt from past mistakes and besetting sins from which they just can’t get free.
It’s really, really, really time for that to end.
Freedom From Guilt is on God’s Terms, Not Ours
But it isn’t automatic. Freedom from the pain of guilt is available to all, but receiving such freedom (emancipation, really) comes on God’s terms, not ours.
For a person, any person, who wants to truly be free… freedom awaits. But the process of being forgiven cannot be short-circuited, otherwise we remain in its suffocating grip.
Let’s explore what I believe are the six scriptural principles of freedom from guilt. And our failure to comply with these six biblical principles is “Why You (We, or I) Still Feel Guilty.”
You can also find a full discussion of these truths on this video version of this discussion, given originally in a Facebook LIVE event.
6 Tips to Getting Rid of Guilt Once and For All
1. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Awareness of Sin
-We have to become aware that what we’re doing displeases God
-We have to know the difference between right and wrong
-This involves paying careful attention to our hearts. This includes, listening to our conscience. And if you’re a Christian, listening to the Holy Spirit. Half the battle is obeying your conscience, so it doesn’t become abuse and silenced, and then failing to make you aware of sin.
Scripture: Rom 3:20 ESV: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
2. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Acknowledgement of Sin
We must admit or acknowledge it—otherwise we’re keeping secrets from ourselves and we can’t go any further into freedom without acknowledging our sin (individually, not only as a whole set of sins ever committed—at some point, if things are bothering us, we must confess those singularly, one by one).
Scripture: Ps 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
This passages comes from the “Man After God’s Own Heart” (the person God said pursued Him the most in his own time in history) who had to come to grips with this important principle. So, if the Man After God’s Own Heart had to come to grips with acknowledging it—so might we!
3. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Have Contrition
To have contrition means we regret something. I’m not a big fan of when people say “I have no regrets in life.” Really? I mean, really, really?
Unless a person has lived sinful perfection, I can’t imagine saying that. Now, people often mean “I learned something valuable” so they wouldn’t take an action back. The only problem with that is that “it’s not all about us.” In other words, the reason regret is important isn’t just because of US… we should have regret because that makes it clear that we recognize the pain we have caused OTHERS. Only a selfish view of our actions would keep us from having regrets.
And regret is the essence behind the concept of contrition. It means that we feel bad about it. We could have, should have, done otherwise.
Scripture: Psalm 51:17 New International Version: My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
4. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Confess
Confess means to “declare the same thing” or “to repeat.” When we confess, we declare to God that His conviction of our action is accurate. It means we repeat that accusation and conviction back to Him… that we agree with it and declare it.
Proper biblical confession holds nothing back. It fully owns what we’ve done. It doesn’t restate the sin to our own liking, but instead restates it just as God has shown it to us. When we say the same thing about our sin as God does, we can be forgiven. When we shirk responsibility by confessing “to a lesser charge,” we remain in spiritual bondage. It’s as simple as that.
Scripture: Ps 32:5 “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”
Scripture; 1 John 1:9 “If we are faithful to confess our sin, God is faithful to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
5. To Get Rid of Guilt, We Must Repent
Repentance means to change one’s mind. It means to do an about face. It means that we are going in one direction, wrongly, and we recognize and acknowledge that, and then “respond” by changing our mind about what we are doing and the direction we are going… resulting in a change of mind and, after repentance, a change of behavior.
Note that repentance is not the change in behavior exactly—it’s the change of mind. It’s the change of heart. That change and repentance begins to work its way into our behavior and our livestyle. God works His will into us and his transformation from the inside out, which is why it’s mostly about what is going on inside of us. Then, that inward change, results in outward behaviors. But repentance is getting our heart and head right, and that causes a change in our lives as a result.
Scripture: Acts 3:19 –repent that times of refreshing should come from the Lord
6. To Get Rid of Guilt, We May Have to Give Restitution
Genuine repentance leads to a desire to do whatever we can humanly do to right the wrongs in our past. This is what “restitution” is.
Restitution takes many forms. It may mean to approach someone and offer the grace of an apology. It may mean serving a person we’ve violated in some way. It may mean a type of action where we demonstrate penance—and not in “that” way… but to demonstrate to a person we’ve wounded or violated that we are “doing something” as a way to visibly show our contrition and apology. Restitution sometimes even involves cash payment, though that’s when the punishment fits the crime (like when stealing or embezzlement, etc. has occurred).
So what about restitution?
Sometimes restitution is necessary, and sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes restitution is possible, and sometimes it isn’t.
Sometimes restitution is practical, and sometimes it isn’t.
Now, it should be clear that—even when restitution isn’t practical, it may be necessary. So “impracticality” isn’t in any way an indication that restitution isn’t needed. Impracticality simply makes it harder to do. But, just as it wasn’t “easy” for Jesus to manifest in human flesh in order to die on a cross for human sin—we can’t use the excuse that showing restitution for our wounding of another person is “impractical” or isn’t “easy.” That’s beside the point.
[Want More Details? Watch The Live Video Talk]
Even so, even if it IS possible, and even practical—that doesn’t mean God always wants us to do it in every situation.
Want to learn more about this principle? See my live video talk.
If you have received forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, all of your sins are forgiven, whether or not you have been able to make restitution for them. But IF YOU DON’T FEEL FREE FROM A PARTICULAR SIN—ask God to reveal to you if restitution is needed then follow through.
Scripture: Exodus 22:1-14; Leviticus 6:2-5; Matthew 5:23-24
Matthew 5:23-24: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (of worship to the Lord).
What Happens When We Do These Things?
When we biblically deal with our guilt, God responds.
- God forgives our offense and restores fellowship with Him (and sometimes others)
- God cleanses our lives- and continues to make us holy (like Him and for His use), increasing the spiritual power in our lives, enabling His mighty work in our lives.
- He removes emotional guilt (Ps 32:3-5). That results in the end of self-loathing. It means finally having the grace to forgive ourselves and to stop allowing ourselves to be condemned by Satan and to live under the crushing weight of others’ disapproval.