guilt article by Terezia Farkas

There’s the old adage that Christians live their lives with guilt. Maybe it comes from the idea that Jesus died for our sins and so we should all feel guilty. Then there’s all those rules and ideas Christians are supposed to follow in order to be Christ-like. Is guilt healthy? The answer is no.

Guilt has bad consequences both physically and emotionally. Guilt can lead to all kinds of physical symptoms and conditions like hair loss, extreme weight loss or gain, even heart problems. Some obsessive-compulsive behaviours like hand washing can be traced to an event that caused shame.

Guilt produces low self-esteem, self-loathing, and destructive behaviour to ease inner pain. Guilt can be used by people to control or hurt others. It doesn’t matter if  you’re Christian or not, guilt can be an emotional tool that causes despair, anger, or depression. Guilt only serves a purpose if it allows healing and takes you closer to your higher self. Even then, guilt has to be short-term and resolvable.

There’s two types of guilt. One is inherited guilt – that’s guilt learned from parents, church or society. It’s the guilt of not attending church. It’s the guilt trip your mom uses when you don’t phone her. The second type is personal guilt, which is in response to a sin you’ve committed. Stealing from the office, lying to someone, stuff like that. In that case, your soul is letting your body know that what you did was wrong or hurtful.

Neither type of guilt is healthy. With inherited guilt you pick up values and behaviour that aren’t always right. It can get to the point where you ruminate about every thought and action, wondering if it was sinful. Remember Martin Luther, the father of Reformation? Martin wore out his confessors with as many as six straight hours of daily confession because he got to the point where he wondered if simple, everyday acts were sinful. Eventually one confessor proclaimed, “My son, God is not angry with you: it is you who are angry with God.” Martin realized he was afraid to live in a world he considered impure and that he lacked faith Jesus would forgive him. Sometimes the rules of parents, society, and religion don’t represent how God would act.

Personal guilt is one everyone experiences one time or another. Your soul knows you’ve wounded someone and guilt is the pain you carry for that action. Your pain acts like a signal that healing needs to happen. Seeking forgiveness or restoring harmony to a relationship by doing the right thing brings freedom from guilt. It removes or eases the despair, anger and hurt you feel.

Depression can result from either form of guilt. Depression loves it when you are full of regret, self-hatred and fear. Depression will make you believe it’s impossible to ask forgiveness or to remove your guilt. Fear and anger keep guilt alive and add fuel to your negative self-perception.

What you need to do is figure out if your guilt is the result of something you’ve actually done or failed to do, or if its feelings associated with inherited guilt. If it’s inherited guilt, you can overcome that pain by realizing your own potential and inner goodness. Your parents ideas of sin might not be right. If guilt results from your actions, seek forgiveness. You can ask forgiveness from anyone, even if the person is dead. For example, if you feel you didn’t do enough to help your dad while he was dying of cancer you can still apologize. Visit his grave or in the comfort of some personal space, tell his soul how you feel. Letting go of ‘the what if…’ question can bring healing to a relationship and it certainly will ease the despair your soul feels.

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