Guilt can paralyze a person.
We hear expressions like, “I wallow in guilt” or, “I am eaten-up by guilt.” Guilt is unhealthy and non-productive. It can keep us from reaching our full potential and ruin our relationships. Guilt does not motivate us to change or grow.
Guilt only zaps our energy and reduces our productivity. Guilt is from the enemy, not from God. But aren’t the Gospels filled with messages about guilt? Absolutely not! The word guilt appears as a translation error in Scripture. The real meaning of the original message is lost in the translation.
The Gospels are leading us to compunction; a pricking of our conscience that makes us aware of our sins.
Compunction is followed by contrition; being sorry for our sins. The healthy response to compunction and contrition is repentance; discontinuing the sin. This is much different from guilt. Guilt is only a feeling with no productive outcome. Compunction, contrition, and repentance are what lead us to real improvement in our lives.
Whereas guilt leaves us weak and vulnerable, compunction, contrition, and repentance give us renewed strength.
Think of it this way: an inventor sees a problem and looks for a solution to the problem. Through the process, the inventor tries various things that may not work.
If the inventor gives-up and feels guilty about not succeeding, the project is over, and he or she is no longer an inventor, but a failure. However, if the inventor continues to try other options, success grows closer with every attempt, until the solution is discovered.
If we wallow in guilt over the things we have done or left undone, said or left unsaid, then we will not be motivated to improve. Guilt takes away our drive to succeed, and does not allow us to experience the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.
It is the grace of God that gives us forgiveness of our sins. It is this forgiveness that empowers us to make productive, positive improvements in our life.
Internalize these words: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have everlasting life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)
We have a responsibility to work toward personal improvement every day of our earthly life, and it is the gift of grace that empowers us to cheerfully continue this work. The result will be a more productive life, filled with healthy relationships, and stronger, safer families and communities. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.