Do you feel that?
That cruel tug on your heart?
You feel it’s pull every time you look in the mirror.
The mirror reflects the polished face.
It can’t see the real you.
Deep inside there’s a secret shame.
If others knew, you’d be humiliated.
But you know.
You can hide it from others, but you know the truth.
You were weak. You failed. And it makes you feel worthless.
You feel dirty, disgraced and disgusted.
And it’s defeating you.
The reason you can’t get over it is because it’s true.
You are guilty!
I know it’s hard to believe, but I can tell you how to liberate yourself from the chains of guilt.
It is possible to silence that cruel inner voice that stirs up shame and self-hatred.
HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR PAST MISTAKES
You wish you could just erase the mistakes of the past but you can't.
Why is letting go of past mistakes so hard?
Although the past is gone, it may have negative effects that last a lifetime. The pain is real because there are consequences for choices.
Bad choices lead to bad consequences.
For example, a person drives 100 mph and loses control of the car. The accident isn’t fatal, but the driver is paralyzed from the neck down.
That’s not something she’ll ever get over. She’ll live with that consequence the rest of her life.
Most of us don’t have such difficult consequences to live with. Instead, we have guilty thoughts racing around in our head that remind us over and over again that we made a bad choice.
If you want to stop feeling guilty, you must identify the motive behind the choice.
HOW TO STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT A MISTAKE
You first of all have to identify if the choice you made was a “mistake” or a “sin.”
A mistake is an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment. It can be caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, a misunderstanding or misconception.
If you mishandled a situation in ignorance that led to a bad consequence, it’s a mistake.
If you knew something was wrong and you did it anyway, it’s a sin.
Just be sure you let the Bible define sin for you.
The world has turned morality upside down. It calls evil “good” and good “evil.”
In first-century Rome, Christians were being put to death because they would not worship Caesar. Roman culture allowed people to worship many gods, as long as they acknowledged Caesar as one too.
These Christians did not sin or make a mistake! Yet they still paid a negative consequence for their choice.
Some choices are costly, but worthwhile.
The Bible defines sin as missing the mark. Think of an archer aiming for the bullseye but the arrow doesn’t hit anywhere near the target. That’s the idea of missing the mark.
Jesus summed it up when He said to love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.
Missing the mark is basically failing to love God or your neighbor. Failing to love the way God commands in the Bible is sin.
Many times we confuse sin with just making bad judgment calls and then feel guilty.
It happens because we have a defective view of guilt.
“Feeling” guilty and “being” guilty are two different things.
Feeling guilty makes you feel like you deserve punishment.
Being guilty means you do deserve punishment.
Guilt is a judicial term. Somebody who has committed a crime and is judged “guilty” must pay the penalty for that crime.
Guilt is a “fact” or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability.
Culpability just means guilt or blame that is deserved; blameworthiness.
A person may or may not feel guilty when they sin.
Feelings don’t determine whether or not you are guilty. Facts do.
Some people feel no sense of sorrow or guilt for the wicked deeds they’ve done, while others feel great angst over mistakes they’ve made that did not violate any law.
FEELING GUILTY DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE GUILTY
You must learn to discern the difference between sin and mistake.
For example, if you chose one job over another and it turned out to be terrible, it was a mistake, not a sin.
Nobody has perfect knowledge of all the possible situations in life. We are not prophets who can determine our futures based on making all the right decisions.
Learning how to get over past mistakes requires you to recall and analyze the past situation.
Often your feelings about the past mistakes can be the biggest clue to your motive.
Are you embarrassed because others are aware of your mistake?
Or do you feel a sense of shame because what you did was wrong in God’s eyes?
If you messed up in public but it was a mistake and not sin, it’s your pride that is speaking to you, not a guilty conscience.
You’d like to think you’re a good person who doesn’t do bad things.
You’d like to think you’re a smart person who doesn’t make mistakes.
But you are neither good, nor omniscient (all knowing).
The truth is, you are proud!
If perfectionism is your idol, you will always be disappointed in yourself for not living up to your own impossible expectations. Beating yourself up for past mistakes keeps you focused on the past instead of the present and just adds one more mistake to your list!
Whether your mistakes are public or private, you will be angry when you realize you are not in control of every detail of your life. You’ll waste time trying to think how you can change the negative outcomes of your decision.
You must remind yourself that nobody is perfect and that mistakes can be valuable stepping stones in this journey of life--if you’re willing to learn from them.
DO A REALITY CHECK ON GUILT
If the approval of others is more important to you than God’s approval, you’re guilty of sin because you are supposed to love God with all your heart.
If you fear what others think of you, or are more concerned with your own opinion of yourself than God’s, you're going to stay miserable.
Just don’t confuse your damaged ego with a guilty conscience.
The Bible refers to the conscience as the soul reflecting on itself. It is an inner sense of right and wrong and produces an awareness of accountability for doing wrong.
A guilty conscience was designed by God to lead you to Him.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance.
HOW TO STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT THE PAST
If you determined what you did was not a mistake but a sin, the Bible tells you how to stop feeling guilty about the past.
Sin creates a barrier between you and God and the feelings of guilt are meant to encourage you to reach out to God by agreeing with Him that you disobeyed Him.
When you sin, you need to confess it to God. Confession means saying the same thing. So if God says lying is a sin and you told a lie, you just admit to God that you lied.
And you repent, which means you stop lying and start telling the truth.
As mentioned before, guilt tells you that you deserve punishment. God hardwired us with a conscience to understand His righteousness.
FEELING GUILTY DOES NOT REMOVE GUILT
Sometimes people think that if they feel bad enough about something they’ve done wrong, it will in some sense make up for their sin.
They are punishing themselves because they understand at a very deep level that guilt deserves punishment.
This is referred to as self-atonement, which is an outright rejection of the gospel that says Christ’s blood was already shed to atone for the believer's sin.
Atone means to make amends or reparation for an offense or a crime, for an offender to make up for errors or deficiencies.
Nobody can ever make up to God for their sin, no matter how much they desire to, or how hard they try.
That’s why the gospel is such good news. Somebody else made atonement for you.
If you are a Christian, the punishment for your guilt has already been meted out on Christ.
This is a fact, whether you “feel” it or not.
God doesn’t want you “feeling” guilty when you are not.
He knows that will rob you of peace and joy, as well as hamstring you for everything else in life.
If you are still “feeling” guilty, it's because you don't understand the character of God’s mercy or the concept of forgiveness.
Forgiveness means to send away, to let go of or cancel a debt.
When a person believes in Jesus as their savior, all their debts are paid.
There is no more penalty to be paid. It's already paid in full.
The sinner is acquitted. The “guilty” judgment is sent away.
The key to feeling forgiven is to believe it.
God said there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. That’s a fact to be accepted as truth and believed.
Unbelief is the liar that keeps you feeling guilty over a sin that’s already been punished and the debt cancelled.
Remind yourself that feeling guilty is not the same as being guilty.
IS FORGIVING YOURSELF BIBLICAL?
Forgiveness is the essential core of Christianity. In fact, the entire Bible is one long story of forgiveness.
In a book that is so focused on forgiveness, where is forgiveness of self mentioned?
The Bible does not contain one single reference to forgiveness of self.
The book is filled with stories of forgiveness and commands to forgive, but nowhere does it tell you to forgive yourself.
Because forgiveness is meant to produce a specific result-- reconciliation.
Forgiveness is required to restore broken relationships.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they broke fellowship with God. When God forgave them, their relationships with Him were restored.
Likewise, when you sin against God, your relationship to Him is broken.
When you sin against others, your relationship with them is broken.
Forgiveness is the healing balm that reconciles people to each other. It’s the glue that mends hearts back together again.
When you sin, your sin damages your relationship with God and others, but not with yourself.
Your can’t be in a relationship with yourself because a relationship requires two or more parties.
Your sin may cause you to be angry at yourself, and be overcome with a sense of regret and disgust. But your relationship to yourself is not broken.
The concept of “learning to forgive yourself” needs to be changed to “learning to live with yourself.”
Until you are liberated from guilt through the forgiveness of your sin, you will struggle to live with yourself as you are. And the reality you must live with is, you are a person who makes mistakes and misses the mark.
GET OVER YOUR SELF TO GET OVER YOUR PAST
You are stuck with yourself.
Which is why it’s so easy to obsess about yourself.
You can’t ever get away from the voice in your head that says you are unworthy.
And that voice speaks truth!
You are unworthy. Your sins make you unworthy of God’s love and blessings.
And your adversary the devil will remind you of that constantly!
Until your accept your unworthiness and use it to your advantage, your feelings of shame and regret will continue to eat you up inside.
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Blessed means “happy.”
When you feel guilty, you are far from happy. You are miserable!
Proud, self-reliant people can’t settle for doing NOTHING for themselves!
Even when they are guilty and know they deserve punishment, they’d rather pay penance by making themselves miserable than to humble themselves before the Lord.
They think worrying, regretting and feeling miserable are better than doing nothing. They are attempting to create their own worthiness without God.
The poor in spirit realize they are unworthy and come to God with nothing to commend themselves.
They come empty because that’s the only way God will accept them.
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
“Poor in spirit means the complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and self-reliance. It means the consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of God. It is nothing, then, that we can produce; it is nothing we can do in ourselves. It is just this tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with God. That is to be poor in spirit.” - Martyn Lloyd Jones
The way to benefit from your unworthiness is acknowledge you are a sinner and come to God for cleansing that only He can do.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
God will forgive your sin.
Forgiveness removes your guilt.
Forgiveness restores your relationship with Him.
You can stop punishing yourself and making yourself miserable.
Instead, you can be happy because you are forgiven.
You can live with yourself, knowing you will never be worthy of God’s grace--but He loves you anyway.
You are united with Jesus and God sees Christ’s worthiness in you.
Live with your imperfect self by living with gratitude for God’s infinite mercy!
HOW TO FORGIVE YOURSELF AND MOVE ON
Almost everyone has particular sins from their past that keep haunting them with guilt.
People are searching for answers:
- How to forgive yourself for lying?
- How to forgive yourself for hurting someone you love?
- How to forgive yourself when you’ve done something really bad?
But they are asking the wrong questions.
They are looking for a way to relieve their guilty feelings.
They don’t understand the correct definitions of sin, guilt and forgiveness, so they continue to feel guilty.
Once a person understands the concept of sin as explained above, they will realize they have done something to break their relationship with somebody.
First and foremost, all sins are against God.
When you lie to somebody, you have sinned against them. But you sinned against God first because He is the One who said, “Thou shalt not lie.”
When you hurt someone you love, you sinned against them. But you sinned against God first because He is the One who told you to love your neighbor and love does no harm to its neighbor.
All sin is defined by God and therefore committed against God.
But when you confess and repent, God forgives and your relationship with Him is restored.
And the same pattern is necessary to restore your relationships with people.
If you lied to somebody, you need to go to them and tell them you lied and ask them to forgive you.
If you hurt somebody, you need to go to them and tell them you know you hurt them and ask them to forgive you.
BEING SORRY DOES NOT REMOVE GUILT
Saying “sorry” is NOT the same as asking for forgiveness.
When you say you are sorry, you are trying to remove your guilt.
Forgiveness (release from guilt) must come from the person who you sinned against.
And they might not forgive you. They might still hold you “guilty” and never let it go.
But in God’s eyes, you have fulfilled your responsibility to the offended person. You sought forgiveness and reconciliation (any possibly paid restitution) so your part is done.
Begging, pleading and “feeling” guilty are not necessary.
Now the responsibility for repairing the relationship is on them!
If they are not willing to forgive you, they are the ones now sinning because God commands forgiveness.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
In God’s infinite wisdom, He created people for the purpose of relationship.
God made Adam from the ground, but then said it was not good for him to be alone. So He made Eve to have a relationship with Adam and they “became one.”
It was the first human relationship and it was perfect--until Adam and Eve sinned.
Since then, we all sin against each other.
Sometimes you're the victim, other times you are the criminal.
Everybody needs forgiveness from others, and everybody needs to forgive others.
Nobody needs to forgive themself.
And for the person who knows they are guilty for something they've’ done that's “really bad,” they need to know that to God, ALL sin is really bad.
So bad you deserve death as punishment.
But His mercy is so great, it can forgive even the sins you call “really bad.”
"No sin is greater than Christ’s desire to forgive it." - C.H. Spurgeon
FORGIVENESS IS THE ONLY WAY TO REMOVE GUILT
You don’t have to let your personal disappointments depress you.
Your mistakes don’t have to define you.
Your sins that make you feel dirty and defiled can be cleansed away.
Although your sins dishonored God and others, God delights in forgiving and restoring honor!
No matter how painful the mistakes, how ugly the sin, or how long you’ve struggled with feeling guilty, now you can experience true and lasting forgiveness through Christ.
He took ALL your guilt away!
Let forgiveness stake a claim in your heart so the next time you feel a tug, it’s gratitude instead of guilt!
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