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Guilt: Does it Have a Character-Building Purpose?

Have you ever acted or reacted out of guilt? Guilt carries power. In fact, many confessions are brought about because of guilt. For this reason, guilt destroys relationships. When guilt settles in, it demotivates you. Guilt is an emotion and a byproduct of it is shame. Shame and guilt will paralyze and kill your self-esteem. Let’s look at Judas. His betrayal led to a pang of guilt he could not bear. There is something about the excessive nature of one’s failures that leads to depression and discouragement. For some men, disloyalty and inadequacies create self-guilt, while for women, eating unhealthy and picking work over family are top contributors.

Webster’s Dictionary defines guilt as, “the criminality and consequent exposure to punishment resulting from willful disobedience of the law, or from morally wrong action; the state of one who has broken a moral or political law; crime; criminality; an offense against the right.”

God uses guilt to move us forward through forgiveness or reconciliation. Throughout the Old Testament we read about guilt and “guilt offerings.” In Genesis 20 and 26, Abimelech scolds Abraham and Isaac for nearly bringing guilt into his household. Guilt destroys relationships! Relationships are important to God. For this reason, in Leviticus 5:14-6:7 and Numbers 5:5-10, God commanded that when someone commits an offense towards another, a guilt offering must be offered to God as well as a full restitution. God’s intention was not for us to be relationally indebted to our brother or sister. Jesus showed this on the cross when he forgave those who sought to kill Him.

In Psalm 38 David confessed, “my guilt overwhelms me.” The sorrow David faced was too heavy to bear and became his burden. It was always on his mind. The truth is the devil has no power over our future so he uses guilt to wrestle with us and hold us back because he needs us to focus on the past and the negatives of life. If we are focused on our past, we lose track of reality. The devil uses guilt to remind us of our stubbornness, moments that could have changed our future, the unteachable times, or whatever it takes to get us to fall into discouragement.

David’s sorrows were affecting him and he needed God to rescue him. See, the proper guilt will function as glue, causing us to make corrections for where we have gone wrong. Guilt was defined to get us to look forward, not in the past. Appropriate guilt should direct us to God in an admission that we need more of His grace to remain humble, we put our heart on the things above (Colossians 3:2). When we do this, we put ourselves in line for a touch from God.

What are you feeling guilty about? What weight are you carrying because you have not exercised your right to freedom? What guilt are you pondering over, therefore hindering you from running to the one who is wondrous in glory? I challenge you today to bring that guilt to God, because with every burden there is a blessing. The Psalm writer said, “Though they plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed” (Psalm 21:11). Do not let guilt and shame define you when God Almighty has already formed you for greatness.

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About Raymond Mills

Raymond Mills, Sr. is a Master of Divinity candidate at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, MA. He believes in bringing hope to the fatherless generation and encouragement to those that have lost hope with the word of God. He is a writer for Grow The Heck Up. His blog, Living A Renewed Life, was created to show others your best is yet to come and it is never too late to turn the page. Raymond also serves as a Minister and mentor to other young adults at his home church in Providence, RI. Raymond is married to his best friend, who has blessed him with two beloved children.

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