Well, if you’re me, then you do. I have an extremely overactive guilt gland. It’s awful. I feel guilty about EVERY SINGLE THING. It’s something I have to fight really hard, because it’s not good, productive guilt. It’s ugly, crippling, depressing guilt. It comes in the form of a negative inner voice that constantly berates me for what I haven’t done that I shoulda, what I have done that I shouldna, and everything else in between. Since I’m a sinful creature, that list is ridiculously huge.
I don’t know why I’m that way, maybe it’s the product of being an oldest child and wanting to please, maybe it’s just the makeup of who I am, maybe it’s a particular malady that women are prone to. Whatever it is, though, it’s not something only I deal with. I know plenty of people who know exactly what I’m talking about.
I got on this topic with a friend today in an email exchange, and I wanted to go a little further with it here on my blog.
I think the most important thing about dealing with guilt is learning to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy guilt. We’ve got to recognize the good, admonishing prickles of the Holy Spirit, that genuine and true guilt that we rightly experience as Christians when we sin. We need true guilt, it stirs us towards repentance. But when we feel guilty about EVERYTHING, then we are overwhelmed, and can’t even tell where one sin begins and another ends. Guilt becomes a state of mind, losing it’s real intention. So, this means we need to pray for discernment. Sometimes it’s hard to see the real stuff in the midst of the empty guilt. We need wisdom to sort it out, and it’s there for the asking.
If you feel bad that the house in an awful state, truthfully examine yourself and see if you’ve been lazy. It happens. If that’s the case, then own it, repent, and get up. The end. No more beating yourself up or badmouthing yourself. Just fix it. Guilt has it’s place, at the beginning of repentance. Nowhere else. Once you’ve repented, then the guilt’s gotta go.
After you’ve learned to recognize the good guilt, then you’ll see the rest for what it is. False guilt. That inner voice that tells you that you’re so far behind, you’ll never catchup… that you’re an awful housekeeper, not as good as so-and-so… that you shouldn’t have eaten those donuts for breakfast, you big, undisciplined slob…you can’t possibly be a good mother, wife, employee… that you are ill equipped for whatever it is that you’re facing. It reminds you of all your failures, faults, weaknesses. It never lets up, never says anything kind or forgiving or merciful, or encouraging. All it has to say is how rotten you are, and will be forever.
Looking at in black and white like that, doesn’t it seem crazy? Could that POSSIBLY be the words that a loving, benevolent God would be whispering in our ears? No! Of course not! Those ugly insinuations come from somewhere else. They are meant to discourage us, lead us into despair and hopelessness. They are intended to erode away our joy, steal our comfort and sense of purpose. They are words of war- each one seeking to defeat and disarm you. Because, my friends, that nasty little voice is your Enemy. When you hear it, reject it! Be ruthless- slam it back where it came from. Call it the lie it is, because your belief is what gives it the sting. Don’t let it quietly, slyly snatch pieces of your happiness away anymore.
Once you’ve silenced that voice, then it’s much easier to hear the gentle, loving urgings of the Holy Spirit. Guilt will be a genuine, productive force in your life, as it should be. It will shepherd you to holiness, not cripple you in despair like false guilt. God’s guilt is a mechanism that brings about peace and reconciliation and contentment. It brings good changes into your life. If the guilt you’re experiencing isn’t doing that, drag it out into the light and give it a good looksie, huh?
Anyway, just thought I’d post that here so I could remind myself of it later, when I’m in desperate need of it. Say in, oh five minutes or so.