We have been working our way through Suits on Netflix for a while now. We enjoy the fun light hearted dialogue mixed with the fast paced drama and many plot twists. As you might imagine for a drama set in a law firm the topic of guilt comes up a lot, which got me thinking…
Guilt is absolutely everywhere. I have been reflecting recently on something which I think has helped me continue to press forward in life, without getting too bogged down. The first thing I have realised is this:
Guilt has a purpose. It usually reveals where we have fallen short, or messed up. For example the guilt over hurting someone or the guilt of forgetting something really important. It shows we are aware of our impact on others.
However most guilt is really unhealthy. The guilt that says I have failed God because I didn’t read my bible today. The guilt which says I am a bad parent because of a mistake I’ve made.
Guilt is definitely a motivator. It is just a really poor motivator. I have found the key to growing in an area is not found by simply feeling guilty enough about the status quo. Real change is motivated by vision and purpose. Guilt focusses on a problem but purpose brings the possibility of a solution.
I am motivated to spend time with God because I want to have an intimate relationship with him. Sometimes I need to remind myself of the purpose, the vision behind something in order to move forward. I am motivated to give lots of my spare time to our school of ministry because I am motivated by the vision to see people transformed by God.
You see, I don’t think anyone gets my best when I am feeling guilty. I am very likely in those moments to freeze up, or do something I will regret. Guilt brings stress and anxiety. Neither of which are your friends. In fact the negative affects of those on your physical and emotional health are well documented.
Left unchecked Guilt grows up and becomes Shame. You move from feeling bad about what you have done to feeling bad about who you are. It moves from being about your behaviour to your identity. We all mess up, we all make mistakes. Yet none of us are messes or mistakes. The difference is everything.
Both guilt and shame will rob you. Rob you of your joy, your peace and most importantly who you are created to be. They cause you to freeze, they cause you to doubt, they cause you to fear. Don’t let them, you are forgiven and saved, if you have put your trust in Jesus. Your identity is secure and your actions, past, present and future are all covered by Jesus’s blood. Jesus is not dwelling on your mistakes and sin so why should you?
I love these insights that John gives us in his first letter. His insight surprisingly reveals that moving away from condemnation and guilt opens up the way to answered prayer.
20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 1 John 3
I think living without being held back by guilt is part of the freedom Jesus came to bring. A freedom that keeps you moving in a forward direction not stuck in the past.
Feeling guilty is human. It shows empathy. I just hope that I am learning not to dwell there. I need to accept grace, get healed, move forward and keep going. Walk in freedom and keep going strong. We owe it to our future selves… but don’t let that leave us feeling guilty!