Have you heard of the phrase “mom-guilt”? That phrase pretty much applies to me on a regular basis. Like, when I’m sitting at the dentist office, listening to the hygienist reprimand my 8-year-old for not flossing.
Yup, that’s mom-guilt.
I really should physically go in the bathroom and make sure he flosses. Or at the very least, I should remember to buy floss!
But you don’t have to be a mom to have guilt. Believe me, there is enough guilt in this world to spread around! There’s family-guilt (“I’m not there enough for my parents”), spouse-guilt (“I should do more to show my husband how much I love him”), personal-guilt (“why did I eat that second piece of pie!”), job-guilt (“I should have put in some more overtime this week”), and social-guilt (“I really should have gone to Sarah’s baby shower”). Recently, I did a study on the different types of guilt. There are actually physcological terms used to describe the different type of guilt. However, I am not going to mention them in this article. All terms in this article are based off my own personal experience, without the use of technical terms.
Good Guilt – Some guilt is healthy. When we break the rules at work, or hurt someone’s feelings with our words, a healthy does of guilt is sometimes all that is needed to make us improve our behavior. Let’s not forget about breaking the law, either. If you steal from your employer, or cheat on your taxes, your conscience (or the holy Spirit!) should kick in and prick some guilty feelings to life! Basically, any time we break a law, we should experience what I am going to call “good guilt”.
Spiritual Guilt – In Exodus 20:1-17, God gave His law in the form of the Ten Commandments. God expected all of mankind to live by these laws. Just like we should feel guilty when we run through a red light, we should feel guilty for breaking one of God’s laws. The Bible tells us that we all have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). That means we all should feel spiritual guilt at some point in our lives.
Borrowed Guilt – Borrowed guilt is not healthy. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of anxiety in society today. Borrowed guilt is the result of unreasonable expectations, or unrealistic rules we set up for ourselves. It is the guilt that pops into our heads just as we are about to fall asleep that says, “maybe I should have…”. When we decide to bear burdens that have not been placed on us by God, we are borrowing guilt. Borrow guilt will throw us under the bus, drag us through the mud, and hang us out to dry! Borrowed guilt leads to hopelessness and often results in anxiety.
Not all guilt leads to anxiety, but it can definitely be a trigger! If you are experiencing anxiety, it would be wise to examine if your symptoms were triggered by guilt. Whether your guilt is the result of an expensive red-light ticket, or a broken commandment, all guilt can be cured!
CONFESS – We are all human. No one is perfect! Take a moment to think of that one person we all seem to know, who has their life in complete order. They made all the right decisions, accomplished all the right goals, and are presently living the perfect life. Even that person is not perfect! Scripture tells us that despite all we do to live a good life, we all fall short of God’s glory!
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23
Are you carrying around guilt from past mistakes? Maybe you hurt your family because of your mistakes. Maybe you served time for your mistakes. Whatever it is that has caused you that feeling of guilt, you need to confess it. Get on your knees, open up your heart, and confess your sin to God. Confessing our sin to God is literally the best way to find relief from guilt!
I would like to take a moment to mention that according to the Bible, good works can never get us into Heaven! If you are trying to live a perfect life in hopes to someday enter Heaven, you will forever carry around a load of guilt!
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
An old preacher once said, “If you could earn it, then why did He die”?
How true that statement is! There is no way we could ever be good enough to erase our own sin and guilt. On Jesus can! You don’t need your priest to pray for you, you don’t need to do any good deeds, or repeat any special prayers. You only need Jesus!
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” – Romans 10:9
Forgiveness of sin is the most important step in finding relief from anxiety!
FORSAKE – Once you have confessed the cause of your guilt to God, the next step is to forsake. Forsake the sin that you confessed, and forsake the guilt that you left behind!
As Christians, how many times have we thrown our guilt at the feet of our Savior, only to then sigh in relief, wipe our tears, and bend over to drag it back home? How often have we confessed our sin to only wake up the next day and do it all over again? We need to leave those old habits behind! God wants to give us rest from our guilt, but He can’t do that if we are not willing to leave it behind.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
The next time you lay awake at night thinking of all the things you should have done, remind yourself that it’s already taken care of! God has forgiven you, and is holding that heavy load of guilt for you. Say a prayer of thanksgiving, and refuse to dwell on it!
FORGIVE – Once we confess and forsake our guilt, we need to seek forgiveness from others. If your guilt is the result of hurting someone you love or know, a humble apology can bring healing to you both! Don’t let pride be the one thing that keeps you from curing the anxiety trigger of guilt!
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that you should remember to forgive yourself. God does not want us to move forward in our lives, while hanging on to past guilt. He wants you to leave it behind, and you can’t do that unless you also forgive yourself!
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” – Phillipians 3:13
Want to read my story about anxiety? My Story with Anxiety
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*disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information in this article has been gathered from my own experience and personal research. Please see your doctor or therapist before making any changes to your prescription regimen.