Lesson 5: Guilt
This week’s teaching is about guilt. I took a psychology class this past semester that taught me on how to differentiate between guilt and shame. Shame is a manifestation of guilt. Guilt has been defined by psychologists as the state of having committed an offense, crime, violation or wrong especially against moral or penal law while others define it as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense real or imagined.
This week’s lesson tells us that guilt may cause shame, fear, sorrow, anger, distress and even physical illness. And at times, it may make people feel guilty about something for which they are not responsible for. For example, a child feeling responsible for his parents divorce.
When a sense of guilt is justified, it serves as a good conscience. Guilt produces enough discomfort to make the person do something about it. Depending on personal choices, guilt may be highly destructive, as in the case of Judas or highly positive as in the case of Peter.
Genesis 3:8-13 gives us a good example as to how Adam and Eve manifested the guilt they experienced. One question we are asked is how bad was Adam’s reaction?
We are told that guilt is known as the first adverse human emotion felt by the human race. Genesis tells us that once Adam and Eve sinned, their behavior changed, they hid from the Lord among the trees. Clearly, we can see that they felt ashamed even to come before God. They feared what his reaction would be.
In life as human beings, how many times do we feel ashamed after we have done something bad before God or others? Do we ask for forgiveness? Are we quick to reaction like Adam or do we tend to blame others? How do we face up to the wrong things we have done so that we can move on and find favor in the eyes of God?
Often, guilt comes in the form of memories of wrong past doings. A good example would be Joseph’s brothers and what they did to him. Genesis 42:21. As Christians, how many times are we faced and reminded through flashbacks of the things we did in the past? Does it become part of our life chewing us day in day out with the constant fear of the consequences?
We are told that dwelling on these memories and guilt will never change. What we need to do as children of God is to repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness. We all know that if we come to God and humble ourselves, he will cleanse us of all the sins we have committed.
How many of us come to God daily to confess of the wrong doings we have done so that we can forget about our guilt? A good example of a man of God who knew about the strength of silence and honest confession was David. Honest confession is good for the soul, and seemingly also for the body. David’s language clearly suggests that his mental state of guilt was causing him immense physical pain.
I for example, tend to listen to Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church. One thing I have learned from his teachings is when we feel guilty about something; we should surrender ourselves to God and let him take away the guilt we are experiencing. Also, we need to go to those whom we have wronged and ask of their forgiveness.
One question that this week’s lesson has for us is, “In what ways have your falls and failures made you more sensitive to the falls and failures of others? How can you learn to minister, out of your pain, to others in theirs?”
We need to know that guilt can often create the person we are and destroy us positively or negatively. As Christians, we need to ask for forgiveness and humble ourselves before God. Just like the Bible teaches us through Peter, David, Adam and Eve, we need to learn when we are wrong and ask of his grace.
As we start a new week, let as learn not to allow guilt to eat us but rather, look unto the Lord and ask him to show us what is right and wrong.