Do you spend a lot of your time feeling guilty? I sure do – and most of the time it doesn’t even make sense. Here are some of the areas where I feel guilty on a regular basis: I didn’t do enough for my mom while she was alive. I should have raised my kids better. I bought too many clothes or shoes. I ate or drank something fattening. I should be working more. I should be working less. I should pray more. The list could go on and on.
What exactly is guilt? Here is my “laywoman’s” definition. It is a nagging, convicting feeling that results from a failure to do (or not do) what you ought to have done, or what you THINK you should have done. I remember feeling a lot of guilt when my kids were growing up because I was working and wasn’t spending as much time with them as I thought I should. Sound familiar to anyone? This type of guilt is pointless. It zaps your energy and poisons your mind when there is probably little you can do about it. In my case, I was a single mom and needed to work to help provide for my family. The crazy thing was that, on the flip side, I felt guilty because I didn’t think I was working enough!
What are the types of guilt?
- LGGD (low-grade guilt disorder) – In my book, Confessions of a Hot Mess: From Mess to MESSage, I coined the term LGGD. This isn’t a medical term so don’t try to discuss it with your therapist. I defined it as a pervasive sense of guilt because we feel bad about all the things we are doing – or aren’t doing – or aren’t doing as well as we think we should. Oftentimes, LGGD results from us thinking that we aren’t meeting the expectations of some external source (e.g., other people, society). The bottom line is that this type of guilt isn’t productive and is even harmful. It negatively impacts us and holds us back from the lives that God wants for us.
- Guilt based on sin – Another type of guilt occurs when we sin and that’s a different matter. However, all is not lost! If we sin, we should ask for forgiveness and repent. As a result, our sins will be forgiven because of the redemption that we have through Jesus Christ on the cross. Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Guess who uses guilt to keep us from God? Could it be Satan!?! He will try to pull us back by saying, “Where do you think you’re going? Remember what you did?” Then those feelings of guilt come flooding back! When this happens, say “Not today, Satan!” and continue about your business.
I’m sick and tired of feeling guilty! How can I make it stop?
As is often the case, I believe that it frequently starts with awareness. When you notice guilt rearing its ugly head, here are some actions you can take.
- If it’s LGGD, recognize it and tell Satan that you aren’t going to waste your time on his nonsense!
- If it is guilt based on sin, ask for forgiveness right then and there. Thank God for His grace and move on!
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:4-8