Falling From Freedom: Guilt Is Your Friend

Auto retrato en espejo roto / Self portrait on broken mirror

You’ve done it again.  A rough day, lots of emotional turmoil, plus that time of the month and you just did not stand.  You could have, but you didn’t.  You chose; you fell; and like the game of Chutes and Ladders, you find yourself falling from square 55 back to square 1.

Much like a scene from a Choose Your Own Mystery book, you have a choice to make and it will define your life for the next several hours, days, months, and possibly years.

You keep telling yourself you knew better.  at the same time there is a deeper, darker voice- the part of you that is telling yourself to stop caring.

This is a difficult journey in freedom, because we will always be broken in need of redemption.  We will never get to a point where we have it all together.  There will always be something that reminds us of how imperfectly human we are and how dependent we are on the grace of God.  You know what?  Life is a lot more comfortable if you ignore that.

Life is easier if you pretend you have it all together.

Life is happier if you believe what you are doing is not actually that wrong.

You feel less guilty if you convince yourself there is not a standard, that this is no big deal.

You feel justified if you tell yourself God doesn’t care, if you shift the blame to Him and make this His responsibility.

You would be perfectly fine if God did not have a problem with your lust issues.  Why do your thoughts matter that much anyway?  What does five minutes on an old site hurt?  What does one video of lesbian porn matter?  Or one night given to fantasy?  You spend the rest of your time worshiping, loving and serving God, what is the big deal?

It’s a common place to be in, but a dangerous one.  Here is the problem:  We don’t like how we feel after we feel we have ‘let God down.’  That is a cosmic failure in our hearts and minds.

You click that red “x.”  You unlock the door.  You finally climb into the shower.  The desire in that moment is to move on like the last 10 minutes never happened.  It was just a mistake, a slip up.

No, God, I don’t want to talk about it.  Can we just not talk about it? Let’s talk about church on Sunday or what I learned in small group.  Here, I’ll even sing you a worship song!

Still, even as you try to move on, there is this nagging sense of guilt.  An incessant tapping, like a dripping faucet, reminding you that something isn’t right.  It bugs you, and maybe you want to drown it out, so you serve a little harder, sing a little louder, read a little more and pray a little longer.  You wait it out, pushing through life refusing to acknowledge the problem, refusing to address the separation between your heart and the one who loves it.

Eventually, one of two things happens.  Either the pipe bursts and you drown under a wave of guilt and brokenness or you harden yourself so much that you end up right where you started- calloused, indifferent, and distant.

This is a hard truth, so repeat after me:

Guilt is your friend.

Again, guilt is your friend.

How’s that for a mind-blowing, culture shocking truth.  We humans are not fans of guilt.  If there’s anything worse than being told you’re wrong, it’s admitting you’re wrong.

I had a friend once who got a ticket for speeding.  She knew she was speeding, but when she went to court, her lawyer told her to plead ‘not guilty’ because then the cop would have to prove it, and he couldn’t.

There’s a word for that: it’s called lying.  She knew she was wrong and lied in order to avoid the consequences.  While she was guilty of speeding; she did not take responsibility for speeding.  She plead ‘not guilty.’

Guilt means responsibility.  Guilty is taking responsibility for a wrong.  We just don’t like doing that.  Even as little children, we will point at our brother or sister when the Christmas tree comes crashing down, or we will make excuses for not having our homework done.  Anything to avoid the guilt.  Anything to avoid the responsibility.

However, guilt is a key part in our story.  Why?  Because if we feel guilty it means we still care.  The ones who sin without remorse, who truly feel no guilt, are dangerous.

I want you to look at guilt differently, because we have lumped guilt and shame too close together.  They are not the same, and I’m going to expand on that in the next post.  Guilt is simply the acknowledging that I have done something wrong.  It has to do with my actions as compared to a standard.

Acknowledging guilt (responsibilty) is the first step in righting many wrongs.

Make it human for a moment:  you’re PMSing and go off on your best friend.  She’s a jewel and just sits there and takes it, but you know, when she leaves, that you have hurt her deeply.  Does that bother you? (Guilt) or do you sit there trying to justify your actions and then give her a call like nothing ever happened?

You can try the second approach, but that one instance of pain will continue to mess with your friendship.  Without it being addressed it will go unresolved.  There can be no closure where there is no forgiveness, and there can be no forgiveness where there is no acknowledgement of wrong (acknowledgement of guilt).

If you want to continue growing on this journey, you are going to have to admit when things are not right.  Yes, it is hard, humbling, and it hurts.  You cannot push on like nothing ever happened. Moving on will give you a false sense of victory, a blissful ignorance, and when we are ignorant toward sin, the outcome can be disastrous.

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The world will tell you to ignore the guilt, that the guilt is wrong because your standards are too high.  Do not listen; that little nagging tapping in your heart is a friend to you.

There will be another voice.  A louder, more damning, and stronger voice.  That one you are right to ignore…

(to be continued)