I have had numerous restless, sleepless nights in which I felt as though I had “let God down.” Those moments usually followed episodes in my life when I felt like my language, thoughts and actions did not bring delight to God, nor did they reflect me at my best.
I can’t begin to describe the weight and darkness felt when you feel as though you are a source of pain and disappointment for others. You not only find it hard to face yourself and others, but you feel as though the relationship you have with God has been damaged because of your misdeeds. How could God love someone as inconsistent as me? Why would God even bother caring for or about me? These are the kinds of questions I would raise when I allowed guilt to consume and cripple my life.
Guilt is truly a sneaky foe. It has a way of making you feel unworthy and undesirable. Guilt will convince you that that there is nothing useful about you because your life is so wretched. When guilt infiltrates the dark corridors of your mind and sets up shop in your spirit, it can wreak havoc on an already tortured soul. If guilt is successful in its efforts to distort your view of God and yourself, it then invites some of its friends: misery, pain, anxiety and depression. Guilt rarely travels alone and its traveling companions have destroyed countless lives.
How does one overcome the power of guilt? Begin by understanding that perfection is not a prerequisite for a faithful life. There is no one who is immune from making mistakes, for we have all been guilty of lapses in judgment or moral missteps. The tragedy is that, too often, we allow our shortcomings to define who we are or determine our disposition. It is as if we empower our misgivings so that they become the defining elements in our lives. How many times have you been guilty of allowing your faults to hinder your progress? How many times have you been hampered by harmful habits? How many times have you been stymied by your indiscretions? To put it plainly, how many times have you allowed guilt to consume you?
Next, recognize that we all make mistakes, but our mistakes do not have to be the sum total of our identities. One of the main reasons we carry guilt is because we believe that our mistakes are irredeemable. We feel as though our offenses are too gross to be rectified.
Therefore, we allow the misdeeds that we have committed to have the final word, and in doing so, we sometimes limit the possibility of growth and transformation. There is no shame in stumbling and there is no disgrace in having deficiencies. Failure is not determined by the nature of the mistakes you make in your life, nor is it determined by the number of mistakes you make. What really matters is how you respond to your mistakes. This does not mean that you allow your mistakes to become excuses-it means that you should not carry the weight of guilt because of your mistakes. Finally, recognize that you are not alone in your struggle to honor God with the way you live your life. As a believer, I have come to realize that the Bible is filled with people who struggled, but their struggle did not disqualify them from being recipients of God’s love and grace. Abraham struggled, Noah struggled, Moses struggled, Esther struggled, David struggled, Jonah struggled, Peter struggled and Paul struggled. In spite of their struggles and flaws, they were still able to accomplish great things.
Never believe that your flaws and imperfections disqualify you from greatness, and do not allow the cloud of guilt to hover over your life. Instead, realize that it just may be that your mistakes can serve as a springboard to self-discovery and new opportunities. You can overcome guilt!