Help Me Understand: Guilt

  • Help Me Understand: Guilt
Help Me Understand: Guilt

People tell me I'm too busy, that I need to take it easy. How do I explain that my biggest fear is the overwhelming anxiety—nearly panic—filling my soul as soon as I'm alone and all is quiet?

It's in those times my inner voice reminds me of all the bad things I've done in my past, all the people I've let down, and all the items I haven't crossed off my list. Instantly I feel deep regret, shame, and guilt for failing at life. Why would I slow down when it will make me feel horrible about myself? I'd rather not feel anything.

No. I must also keep going so I won't let anyone down, myself included. I should be able to handle my schedule—I take care of myself and I always try to be on time and to follow through on my commitments. Sometimes time gets away from me, and often I don't have time for church or Bible study because of other commitments, but it's something I'm working on. People can be very demanding you know.


We are all guilty of sin by virtue of our sin nature inherited from Adam. “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, we become aware of our guilt and feel true shame over our sin.

We all have an intuitive sense of justice and that wrong must be atoned for. But because of our sin nature we are prone to self-atonement and false guilt, a sense and thought that we must somehow pay the penalty ourselves. This results in self-recrimination, self-accusation, and false shame, which is a powerful sense of worthlessness.


God addressed the problem of our guilt and shame by providing forgiveness as a gift “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NIV).

The punishment for our sin is not overlooked. The death of Christ actually paid the penalty in our place once for all: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

The Lord also provides ongoing provision for our sin: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). By truly receiving His forgiveness when we sin as believers, we thwart self and Satan's attempts to create false guilt.


  1. Recognize that Jesus Christ's life and death demonstrate God's love for us.
  2. Know that God freely offers you His Son Jesus Christ as a substitute penalty-bearer.
  3. Accept God's free gift of forgiveness through Jesus as full payment for your sin.
  4. Understand that God is compassionate. He knows our weakness in temptation but wants us to experience the freedom of His forgiveness.
  5. Should we sin as believers, upon our confession of that sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins (1 John. 1:9).
  6. Knowing that Christ was beaten and died for your sin, commit to not beating yourself up for your existence, sins, and mistakes.
  7. Be aware that Satan uses accusation and false guilt to hinder our faith walk. However, having accepted Christ's sacrifice for our sin we can point Satan at Jesus' work on our behalf and declare our freedom in Christ.
  8. Examine those areas where you feel guilty to discover whether it is conviction by the Holy Sprit because of sin, or accusation by Satan creating sorrow and despair.