Most of us feel guilty when we’ve done something wrong. Have you ever given much thought as to what guilt might be producing in your life?
For instance, if we never felt any guilt, no one could ever heal–it’s the first warning sign that something’s not right!
The truth is that guilt can either help heal or harm us depending on how we use it.
The helpful result of guilt should be to restore health, not feel bad. In fact, guilt has ‘directional movement’ pointing us toward more than just a mood or bad feeling.
It can help us when it reminds us of our place as human beings accountable to God. It can hurt us when we punish ourselves for not measuring up to someone else’s standard–perhaps even a parent’s, religious system’s, or society’s.
When guilt directs our movement toward accountability to God, we progress through three things:
- GRACE: God’s unique free gift to us.
Our sin is often so great, that GRACE has to be greater [Romans 5:20-21]: Covering the shame. Taking the blame. Removing the stain. Grace is so GREAT that it finds the goodness in everyone and everything and makes beauty out of ugly stuff.
Ugly + Grace = Beauty!
Grace meets us surprisingly with something unexpected and undeserved. And it leads us through the rest of this guilt-freeing progression as it moves us along…
- REPENTANCE: the steps we take to return to the person God made us to be.
We need to repent because somehow we’ve be lured off God’s path for various reasons and we know we’re not being true to who God made us and the life he gave us. To repent, then, is to say…
“God, I’m so sorry. How messed up is this thing I’ve done. Please restore me!”
It’s not just being aware of our brokenness or a better kind of life. But intentionally taking steps back onto to God’s path for us. And these steps are guided by God’s grace and not just guilty feelings.
True repentance is a prayer of surrender that might sound like this: “Jesus, I need to be united with you in the DEATH of THIS, so that I can be united with you in the RESURRECTION of LIFE OVER THIS!“
- CONFESSION: involves sharing the secrets about ourselves that we try so diligently to hide.
Central to confession is the idea that we’re no longer carrying guilt around alone, otherwise it can become too heavy and wear us out! We often forget that confession is part of the healing process.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” – James 5:16
Honest confession might be the only way to silence the “shaming voices,” as author Keith Miller puts it. Our secrets control us and hold power from the threat of being revealed. When we voluntarily share these secrets in spiritual community, says Miller, we break the power of shaming voices which opens us to even greater healing.
The goal in this entire progression is to restore our health, which can only take place if we fully cooperate in the process and use guilt appropriately leading us to grace.