We’ve all missed the mark at some time in our lives. Whether in friendships, relationships or just our own decisions, making a wrong choice or even just a mistake can bring feelings of guilt that last for a long time.
I’ve been there. I’ve been at the fork and chosen the path that wasn’t best for me. I let guilt get the best of me, even to the point where all I could hear were condemning messages in my head.
We don’t have to stay there. We don’t have to let guilt rule us.
Here’s how I gained freedom, and I believe you can, too.
Is it conviction or condemnation?
I’m pretty sure most of us are more familiar with condemnation. When I was at the height of feeling guilty, I heard messages in my head all throughout the day trying to tell me who I was.
“You’re not good enough. You can never recover from this. You can’t say you’re a Christian when you’ve made such bad choices. You aren’t worthy of forgiveness.”
This is what condemnation sounds like. The Bible says “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
If you have trusted Christ for your salvation and you are leaning toward him, you are not condemned. You are free.
You may feel convicted after a bad decision or a hurtful act. Conviction is that twinge of pain in your heart that always leads you back to God, not away from him. Follow that feeling and you’ll always see how much love and mercy he has for you, no matter what you’ve done.
Know who you are and stand in your identity
When I was a mess, depressed because of all the guilt and condemnation I felt, I started this practice that helped me get back on track in a simple way. Every morning I would sit down in my favorite comfortable chair with a notebook and pen. Then I would simply ask God who he thought I was.
Sometimes it would take a while for the other voices in my head to calm down enough to hear him, but he always answered. Most of the time, I would hear words like “daughter,” “loved,” “worthy” or even “mine.”
There is an African tribe that has a practice like this. When a tribe member does something wrong, the whole tribe gathers around and tells the person who he or she is. The whole tribe encourages that person to be who they really are, not to live into the guilt of the mistake. God wants to talk to you like this, if you’ll let Him.
If sitting in a chair and listening doesn’t work for you, there are so many Bible studies on identity in Christ. That Romans 8 passage is a great place to start!
In my opinion, this is the hardest part. For some, this takes years, but you don’t have to carry your guilt around that long. If you know you are worthy of love, and your identity is found in Christ, you have what you need to complete this last step.
Make it concrete. Get together with a friend you trust and tell them you are forgiving yourself, then allow that friend to pray for you. Sometimes, a Christian counselor can be really helpful in this area, even leading you through a process of self-forgiveness. If someone other than you knows the step you’re taking, it will be more real to you, too.
How have you dealt with guilt? What steps have you taken to be free of your guilt?