One thing I have realized after engaging with hundreds of conference attendees over the years is that far too many believers feel worthless, flawed, guilty and ashamed of themselves. They stay stuck reviewing and replaying things they have personally done and said, or things others have done to them and said about them. As a result, they struggle with overwhelming feelings of being unclean, unacceptable and unworthy to approach God. This guilt and shame becomes a huge road block in their relationship with others, and more importantly, their relationship with Father God. Shame, self-hate and self-loathing grow to the point where they become inwardly focused on what they are NOT instead of what God made them to BE. They are unable to receive and walk in all that Jesus died to give them … including Father God’s forgiving love, mercy and grace.
Guilt and shame continually feed us lies about God, ourselves, our lives and others. They try to steal our true identity in Christ Jesus and distort how our Father God sees us. They mess with our emotions and feelings bringing depression, mental illness, torments, addictions, broken relationships, fear and bitterness.
Most believers, if not all, have felt some type of guilt in their walk of faith. Guilt takes place when a person realizes their failure according to God’s Word, His standards and His truths. Good guilt comes from the Holy Spirit and it should prompt us to immediately repent, renounce, tell God we are sorry, leave it at the cross and walk away washed clean in Jesus’ name. Good guilt can gently lead us back to a right relationship with God, more fully convinced than ever of the Father’s love.
False guilt comes from the enemy when Satan draws you into feeling guilty and tempts you to see yourself through the eyes of your past failures and circumstances. The enemy will bombard you with lies and remind you of your failures. He tries to beat you up! False guilt not only blocks you from forgiving yourself, but also keeps you from accepting your complete forgiveness, freedom and restoration from God. False guilt can be a merciless taskmaster that drives you away from God.
Shame is looking inward and seeing yourself as a failure … unworthy and worthless. Shame is the painful emotion that is caused by a consciousness of guilt, failure, sin or impropriety. It often results in the paralyzing conviction or belief that you are worthless, bad, unacceptable and of no value to others or to God. If you allow yourself to focus on the guilt of what you have done or failed to overcome, it will turn into the stronghold of shame.
The Apostle Paul illustrates the difference between guilt and shame when he says,
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19 NIV)
That is the guilt that emanates from doing the evil you don’t want to do. Then Paul agonizes,
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:24 NIV)
This is the cry of a tormented soul experiencing the shame in his wretchedness.
It’s very important that you understand the difference between making a mistake and believing that you ARE the mistake. Feeling guilty when you sin is a good, godly and healthy response. The proper response when you recognize your failure is to run to God and seek his forgiveness and freedom. But feeling shame when you sin is a destructive response because it is accompanied with feelings of failure and dirtiness and it urges you to run FROM God for fear of his disdain, contempt and rejection.
Here is a KINGDOM TRUTH: The longer you allow yourself to meditate, focus on and replay the negative, sin-filled circumstances in your life, the bigger guilt becomes and the deeper the roots of shame go into your soul and your life. If you continue to dwell on your past failures, it will wear you down to the point that you will begin to accuse, belittle, hate and reject yourself! The enemy of your soul wants you to stay so overly focused on your past failures and personal deficiencies (GUILT) that you begin to see yourself as a failure (SHAME).
When you get caught up in this shame/guilt cycle you can find yourself unable to overcome, change and break free from the enemy’s lies. Those lies become your internal core beliefs which bring more guilt and shame and continues the cycle.
How can you break free from this sick, demonic destructive cycle?
- Identify the lies and begin to reject them, no matter how real they feel.
- Discover and reframe the lies into God’s truths about yourself and your life.
- Humble yourself before God the Father, repent for your sins, ask for His forgiveness, thank Jesus for what He did for you on the cross, receive your forgiveness and leave guilt and shame at the cross as you turn back to God and His truths.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to help you renew your mind and habits with God’s kingdom truths.
- Daily declare God’s truths and promises over yourself.
On August 24-25 we will be presenting a 1 & 1/2 day event in Dayton – “Breaking Free: RLI Intro Weekend”. If you found that that this topic of guilt and shame resonated with you, then join us in Dayton for this event where we will dig deeper into this subject and bring biblical truths and tools to help you rid yourself of the destructive pattern of guilt and shame.