Shame and guilt are one of the ways that many people have been put down and controlled by others and sometimes by themselves. We’re told constantly that as a Christian you can let go of guilt and shame. For some people this is extremely difficult to do. I mess up and it’s there greeting me with a snarky smug smile. Almost in a strange inevitable way I knew it would be there.
So I try my best to not listen to it when it comes calling. I try and remind myself of the truth of Romans 8 v 1. I want to believe it. I really do but I can’t sometimes. Then I feel guilt about not being able to get rid of the feeling. About not trusting, all the things that Jesus and Paul say are true about me.
The very thing that is trying to get me to stop feeling guilty is making me feel guilty.
But this is where my idea of guilt and shame have failed me. As if I should be surprised? I see guilt as something foreign to God, when in reality it could be God’s greatest gift to me.
I see guilt as God’s way of punishing me for everything I do wrong. But that doesn’t make me feel better and it certainly doesn’t help me not screw up again. And again.
Sin is not the things I do wrong. At least not exclusively. Sin is all the ways each of us can feel that deeply hidden truth but clear truth, that things are not as they should be. Sin is the reality that, you and I are not experiencing full joy and aren’t fully alive. It’s inescapable. Look around and see.
It’s inescapable but it’s not all there is.
There is peace to be had and to joy to feel and love to give. It’s in all of us battling the other urges to cause havoc and gossip, put someone down and create war. But it’s there ready to be tapped.
And it is for this very reason that guilt is a gift from God.
Without guilt we wouldn’t know that there is something wrong. We need guilt to alert us to the fact that this is not how it should be. Guilt in its purest form, is that deep seeded knowledge everyone, regardless of faith or religion or background has, that something is amiss.
The way the world is supposed to be is fully restored and being present to the fullness of life. Guilt is the very real manifestation of that absence. It’s purpose is not to hold us down or stop us from doing good, though it often has this effect. No, it’s purpose is to remind us that we were created for more. That this is not the end.
So embrace guilt. Without it, we’re lost to the idea that this pain, simply just won’t do. With it, we’re awake and ready to live in peace with ourselves and others.
And that my friends, is what guilt is good for.