Talking About Guilt, Part 1 — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

Talking About Guilt, Part 1 — Morning Devotions

Experts agree that guilt is a major cause of depression. But God’s Word has advice and great hope for those who suffer from guilt and shame.

Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9am)

By Chris WittsMonday 17 Jan 2022Morning Devotions with Chris WittsFaithReading Time: 4 minutes

You might know the feeling: driving along in a 100 km/h zone, only to discover your speedo has crept up to 110 km/h.

And then the police radar camera records your car breaking the speed limit. I own up to the experience, only to feel annoyed at myself for not being more careful. At that moment, I broke the law and felt guilty at having done so.

There are many books available today that try to explain what guilt is. And it’s an enormous topic that affects each of us in some way. My guess is that we all have experienced guilt in one form or another, going back to childhood. Perhaps there’s a sense of anxiety and inner turmoil which relates to feeling guilty. Maybe you know someone who has said to you, “I have an overwhelming feeling of guilt and I don’t know what to do about it”.

It’s a comfort to know God knows how we feel, and he has some answers to help. We don’t have to struggle through life burdened down with a sense of guilt. Many people do not know how to handle feelings of guilt. They become confused, frustrated, and allow life to sour. But God’s Word has a solution which may help you to get back on track.

But what is guilt? James Dobson says, “guilt is a message of disapproval from the conscience which says in effect you should be ashamed of yourself”. Other writers say, “guilt is anger toward yourself” or “guilt is a bothered conscience”.

In Richard III William Shakespeare wrote: “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues. And every tongue brings in a several tale. And every tale condemns me for a villain”.

A guilty person feels a sense of shame and unworthiness because he or she is guilty. If you’re a Christian, you would probably say, “I have sinned against a holy God”, and I want to come back to this shortly.

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But I wonder if you’ve ever thought through this issue? I’ve heard people say, “I can never get rid of my guilt”. It’s an emotion so slippery, so controlling, that it can wreck our lives. It’s a voice that tells us we’ve failed, fallen short of expectations, or that we have failed our family and friends. It’s also a reminder of past mistakes and regrets.

Don’t Continue Being Controlled by Guilt

Is your life controlled by guilt? Do you carry the baggage of guilt with you as you go about your day, at work, at home, or at church? If so, that’s not what God wants for your life. He wants to permanently free you from your guilt, no matter what kind of guilt is holding you down. He wants to see you released from its crushing control and made into a new person.

Not everyone suffers from a guilty conscience. Some of the most shocking crimes that have ever been committed were carried out by men who felt no remorse for their evil. Adolph Hitler’s ‘final solution’ to the so-called ‘Jewish problem’ was the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children. Yet there is no evidence he ever felt any remorse for this crime.

It’s been alleged Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of 20 to 30 million people during his reign as Russia’s premier. But there is no evidence he had any regret or feeling he had done wrong. But, thankfully, these people are an exception.

On the other hand, there are some people whose conscience works overtime. It’s not unusual for someone to say, “I owe you an apology”. Maybe you’ve had a friend come and say that to you, and you think to yourself, “I don’t remember what happened here. I wasn’t upset or offended”. Probably, your friend suffers from what’s called a ‘pained conscience’. They feel guilty over the smallest matter.

So conscience doesn’t function in the same way for everybody. We sometimes equate guilt with shame, which is different. Suppose a teenage boy wears a pair of jeans with holes in the knees to church on Sunday night. His mother may feel ashamed. She thinks the holes in the jeans are a reflection on her competence as a mother. That’s why she feels shame.

But there’s no doubt that guilt destroys happiness. The mental experts agree that guilt is a major cause of depression. But if we keep thinking about it, God’s Word can give some advice and clear up misconceptions about guilt and shame.

(To be continued in Talking About Guilt – Part 2)