How to Stop Feeling Guilty All the Time
Can I make a confession? I’ve felt guilty very often for much of my life. It’s a terrible burden to carry around. Some of it comes from my personality, maybe because I have a sensitive, or over-sensitive, conscience.
There’s guilt from both sides of the coin: the guilt of doing something wrong, and even doing something imperfectly, or being a complete (or partial) failure at that project. On the other side, the guilt of not doing enough, like more immediately, what did I do with the past hour? I just wasted it surfing around and accomplishing nothing. So unproductive, such a waste of time. Ding, guilty feeling just popped up on the mind palace’s notifiation on the upper right corner.
I suppose this is better than being someone without a conscience, you know, that guy who doesn’t feel guilty about anything they do or say. Don’t be that guy.
Then, there’s the teaching from Romans 8 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That’s supposed to soothe the mind and heart from the feelings of guilt and condemnation. In Christian theology, the spiritual truth is that Jesus died for all my sins—past, present, and future. And what a marvelous truth that is, but what do I do with my nagging persistent feelings? Why won’t they go away already after I’ve prayed and “claim the promise” like the preacher says to do?
It sures feel like I’m in the minority. Again. When I went searching on the web through the gigantic database of sermons and articles from Christian teaching, I couldn’t find many that talks about it. I guess the average person doesn’t feel so much guilt about doing what they know to be wrong. Maybe that’s why we have so much brokenness and abuse in this world, exorbitant numbers of divorce, crimes, cheating, ethical violations, immorality. Darkness of human behavior in the 21st century has been around back in the 1st century and for centuries before that too.
Guilt Isn’t the Same as Feeling Guilty
Let’s see if I can detangle this dilemma of my guilty feelings. Making a sober evaluation, at this very moment, I’ve made a sincere confession before God, and I have done nothing wrong against anyone right now that I can think of. (If I did do something wrong against someone, I can humble myself, swallow my pride, and apologize without excuse, say I was wrong, ask for forgiveness.)
One Ligonier article made this helpful distinction:
When the subject of guilt comes up, it is important for us to distinguish between guilt and guilt feelings. Guilt and guilt feelings are not identical, for many times people are guilty of something for which they feel no guilt or remorse. It is also possible to feel guilty when one has not done anything wrong. The human psyche is complex, and because of our sin and our limitations, what we feel does not always line up with what is true.
To be honest, I’ve carried the weight of guilty feelings for a long time. Yes, I’d be a million-mile frequent flyer for all the guilt trips I’ve taken. Maybe that’s what put the grey in my hair. They say feelings are just feelings, not to be judged as positive or negative, whatever that means. And with lots of work in talk therapy with my counselors over the years, I don’t carry this unhealthy baggage of guilty feelings like I used to. Um, yeah, the inner world of feelings and thoughts, that’s such a mind trip. If you can relate, I sure hope you can do better things with your emotional energy and not get weighed down over nothing. Don’t give free rent in your mind to them accusations.
A Bible teacher named Joyce Meyer, explained how to get free from those guilty feelings by thinking on the truth by faith, in Giving Up Guilt and Shame—
Replace the negative, guilty, shameful lies with the truth, and celebrate your progress in your journey with Jesus, so you won’t just focus on how far you have to go. Thank Him for working in your heart and bringing you little by little from pain and insecurity to total freedom from guilt and shame.
Aside: this was my first blog post typed on my new mechanical keyboard, Keychron K2 Bluetooth Wireless Mechanical Keyboard with Gateron Brown Switch.