I believe guilt is an important and helpful part of lives. Guilt let's us know that we have a properly functioning conscience. If we've done something or someone wrong, we should feel guilty. That kind of guilt motivates us to make things right with whomever we've hurt or trespassed against. Consider the words of Jesus on what to do about guilt:
Our God is a God of resolve, not of festering wounds and lingering guilt. He expects his children to make things right with those we've offended. Then he expects those offended to forgive the offender. Much easier said than done, but that's how we're supposed to act.
However, guilt stops being helpful when it continues to haunt us even after we've done all we can do to make things right. Like when a single bad memory hits us, and we become emotionally bottomed out for the rest of the day. It's really tough to be a blessing to others when we're drowning in our own swamp of negative feelings. That kind of recurring guilt is neither helpful or productive and here's something else: It's not from God.
Take a look at John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Life more abundantly does not include crippling guilt!
Jesus Christ came to bring deliverance to us captives. It's our lifelong enemy, the devil, that will use anything and everything to steal our joy and get us down and depressed. Bringing up past mistakes and blowing them way out of proportion is one of his most successful tactics. He'll use old memories against us to make us feel like failures. But let's never forget: God Is Bigger Than Our Past Mistakes.
Here are a few suggestions for what to do about guilt:
- Ask yourself if you've really done all you can do to make things right. If you haven't, then you need to. This guilt is still serving a purpose. If you have, then stand on that knowledge and let it go. Brush the mud off and move on!
- Keep things in perspective. All of us can look back on some situation and wished we would have handled things differently. But we can't change the past. We can only learn from the past and do better next time. Don't be so down on yourself for not knowing then what you know now.
- If you've made things right, and you can see things in perspective, but still get stuck on the ol' emotional roller coaster, then maybe it's a trick of the devil. Perhaps he's found a weakness in you and is pressing those tender wounds to take you out of the game. It's tough to rejoice when you're hurting, right? It may be time to join the resistance! Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7) Remind Satan that you've obeyed the word, you've done all you can do, and he can take his guilt trip somewhere else!
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)