Guilt is a very powerful force that has plagued the whole human race since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Most of our actions and utterances are driven or controlled by guilt. A lot of folks are no more in control of their actions any more; somebody else is in control, using the unseen force of guilt.
GUILT, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is 1.the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence; 2. a feeling that one is to blame. Note from the above definition, that guilt could therefore, either be a fact or a feeling or both! In knowing how to deal with guilt successfully, you must identify what exactly you are dealing with- are you dealing with a fact or merely a feeling of guilt or both?
Some reasons for guilt:
To help us identify, I’ll like to mention some reasons why we feel guilty.
1. Sometimes because we truly are, then it is a fact not just a feeling that can be waved aside. In some cases we are truly responsible, we are truly to blame, we truly committed an offence. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” So, if you have never repented of your sins and ask God to forgive you, you are truly guilty according to God’s word.
We do have genuine responsibility towards God and people; the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and mind and strength, the 2nd is to love our neighbour as ourselves. We must however find out from God’s word, and also let the Holy Spirit teach us how to do this, or else we will always be flogged by guilt.
2. Because of our own insecurity or poor self-esteem, we think we are responsible for everyone and everything. We get our kicks from what we do, from other people’s approval or affirmation and we want every body to be happy with us, so we can’t say ‘No’. If things go wrong, you think it can’t be the fault of others, it has to be yours. It has to be your fault that your children are wayward, that some body left your church, that someone backslid from the faith, that your parents are divorced, that you are divorced- the list is endless. Jesus never blamed Himself for Judas betraying Him or Peter denying Him!
3. Because of the unreasonable expectations and demands others place on us or we thought they placed on us or even we place on ourselves. Sometimes others expect or demand from us what we are not even in a position to do and we feel guilty if we don’t oblige. Some times people expect their leaders to be there for them and be strong all the time; they don’t expect them to be tired or even to sleep. Some leaders actually think being a leader means all of that; yet Jesus was hungry, He was tired, He slept off in a boat, He showed different emotions. Jesus was never controlled by the expectations of the people; He was led by the Holy Spirit.
4. Because of our past experiences, up-bringing, past sins and failures; we tend to be so easily plagued or attacked by guilt. For instance, Peter could have been dogged by guilt all his life for failing his Master. It’s been said that the guilt in man as a product of man failing God in eating of the forbidden fruit. A man who abandoned his family will find himself living in guilt.
What Guilt produces in us:
What we don’t deal with will eventually deal with us. We need to mention some of the things guilt produces in us, so we can find in us the resolution to deal with guilt wherever it is lodged inside of us.
First of all, we must understand that not all feeling of guilt is negative; there is the positive kind which Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11. He called it ‘godly sorrow’ as opposed to the sorrow of the world. Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but worldly sorrow produces death. I believe that the absence of this godly sorrow in many so called conversions is largely responsible for the kind of watered-down Christianity we see around today. Paul said, “What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what vindication…” So we shouldn’t run away from this kind of sorrow, we should rather let it produce in us what it produced in those folks.
Now to the negative by-products of guilt:
1. It produces a feeling of unworthiness. You feel you are not worthy or you’ve been disqualified because of what you did. This could be a sincere feeling, but you must learn to overcome it. Paul said he wasn’t worthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God; he, however, added, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor.15:9,10). Note that the feeling of unworthiness can paralyse, immobilise and make you ineffective in your Christian witness and in life generally. Some people don’t try again because they have failed before; whereas a failure isn’t just somebody who failed while trying but someone who has stopped trying.
2. Guilt produces in us a deep feeling of anger, resentment, frustration and bitterness. The deep-seated anger in most people is a product of the guilt they suffer from the unrealistic expectations and demands others have put on them at the expense of what they judged they could have done for themselves! Some people, out of guilt, spent their lives doing what they didn’t want to do, going where they never wanted to go, and worse still, at the expense of their own progress- they are going to end up becoming very angry and bitter. Guilt is a wrong motivation for doing things for people. The brother of the prodigal son was very angry, he said to his father “Lo these many years I have been serving you, I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.” (LK.15:29). His father told him all he had was his! The question is, why hadn’t he ever taken a young goat to make merry with his friends? So many times we place some burden or restrictions on ourselves that God or nobody else has placed on us and when we find out later how much we’ve missed, we become angry and bitter. Remain Blessed.
Rev. Funke Ewuosho
This article is an excerpt from DEALING WITH GUILT by Rev.(Mrs) Funke Ewuosho. Rev. Funke elaborates on 5 more things that guilt produces in us and concludes by sharing on how to deal with guilt in the remaining part of the message. You can order the full message on Cassette, CD or DVD from our nearest office or our website.