Why Do I Feel Guilty/
CRF talk 11-7-16
People feel guilty for all kinds of things: for speeding (those aren’t speed suggestion signs), for not remembering their father’s birthday, for not cleaning up their rooms, for not reading all the required reading for a course, when they said they did; the list can go on and on.
Reasons we feel guilty
- Adam, our head, committed sin and brought guilt upon himself and all who are under his leadership/headship. We feel guilty because we are guilty in Adam. The bible says, through one man came death (1 Cor. 15:21), “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Rom 5:12)
- We feel guilty because we do wrong things. We sin on our own.
We sin so much that the Bible says we are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:20). We sin because of our natures, our bent toward sin, we sin in everything we think, do, feel, and say.
- We feel guilty because we do things, or don’t do things, that we or someone else thought we ought to have done (this may be false guilt).
Examples: Guilt when you survive and the rest of the people in your car die (for events that you could not control). Feel guilty for eating that whole quart of ice cream. Feel guilty for not calling your mother last week. Feel guilty for how you managed your family, though things were out of your control, etc.
- We feel guilty because we feel guilty, or because we don’t feel guilty.
Wrong ways we try to get rid of guilt:
- Place our wrong thinking, behavior, feelings on others. We blame them for the things we do wrong. The devil made me do it. I never would have said what I did, had you not said what you said. It was your fault.
- We play the victim role (this is the other side of the first one). I’m a victim, I’ve been abused, my parents were mean to me, my older brother didn’t love me the way I thought he ought. You don’t speak my love language. It wasn’t my fault.
- We try to make up for whatever we did. We try to appease whoever we’ve done wrong to. We do nice things for people. We save the planet or the whales. We run for political office. We do the dishes, clean the car, walk the dog. Sometimes we even ask for forgiveness, not in real confession, but as a way to appease or soften the situation.
- We try to bury the guilt feelings, pretend as if nothing actually happened. We might say, everyone is doing it. Or Bob did it. Or Dad, you do the same thing. This is similar to the blame one.
- Some people believe that feeling guilty is actually a sign that we’re growing up, guilt is a good thing. It points to the fact that we’re taking responsibility for ourselves. It shows that we’re becoming mature in our emotions.
- Still others say that feeling guilty is good because it helps us to realize that we’re not perfect, pure, or even all evil, or bad. It helps us get a right view of ourselves. Guilt, therefore is good, until it leads us to shame, which is bad.
What the Bible says:
Guilt is not primarily an emotion, it is a state, or status. We feel guilty because we usually are guilty.
Adam sinned against God. Our sin is against God. We feel guilty because we are sinning against God—either doing what he has said not to do, or not doing what he has said to do. The part where people come into the whole thing is as secondary participants.
Here’s an example, David sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He sinned again when he had her husband killed in 2 Samuel 11.
In Psalm 51, however, that great psalm of confession, David said, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.” (Ps. 51:3–4). Though David sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, he said he sinned against God. This is because God is the one who said those things are sinful. And God is the only one who can make those kinds of pronouncements.
Hopefully, you can see that if you are feeling guilty it is because you are guilty, but if it is Adam’s sin we are guilty for, we are in serious trouble in terms of how we get past the guilt. Is there anything we can do?
In a great act of mercy, God, in the Old Testament, instituted the sacrificial system. God said this in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” The reasoning goes like this. Sin is against a holy, eternal, and perfect God, therefore our lives are required to make atonement for the affront against God. But God in his grace and mercy instituted a (temporary) way that would allow the Israelites to be cleansed from their sin and forgiven.
But this system was only for Israelites. This is because God chose the Israelites from among the nations to be a light to the rest of the world. And the sacrificial system he instituted, was only a temporary “fix’ for the problem—a shadow of good things to come. The Bible tells us that, “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins [that is, permanently take them away]. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.” (Hebrews 10:11–13)
What this means is that the death of Jesus, appeased God, it took his anger away from us (propitiation). He was angry because of Adam’s sin and because of our sin. In the process, he restores our relationship with God. God forgives us, he commits himself to not remembering our sin; he doesn’t hold it against us, he doesn’t bring it up to us (or anyone else), he will never mention it again (in a context of condemnation). And he removes our guilt. Psalm 103:12 says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:11–14)
One last thing: How do I know this is true? Because, the Bible says that to prove that he had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, God raised him from the dead. Jesus lives, our sins have been forgiven, our guilt is gone.