Every man is fallible because humanity is weak. We all must have done one thing or the other that we are not proud of. We may look back every now and then and wonder what came over us. I mean “I must have lost my damn mind”.
Whilst ruminating on this burden of guilt, or shame, depending on the state of our conscience, we may feel remorse about such action or inaction. Essentially, guilty feeling springs up when we violate ourselves or breach our own personal values. This kind of uneasiness may be good, depending on how exactly we deal with the feeling of remorse. I will use the story of Lady Macbeth (remember Lady Macbeth of Shakespeare’s Macbeth), Judas Iscariot and Peter to illustrate how different people deal with guilt.
Lady Macbeth, Judas Iscariot, and Peter
There are huge similarities between Lady Macbeth and Judas Iscariot- seeing as they both killed themselves out of guilt. Lady Macbeth was very instrumental to the murder of Duncan, Macbeth’s predecessor in the fiction dubbed Macbeth, Judas on the other hand was an accomplice to the murder of his master- Jesus Christ. Lady Macbeth and Judas both plotted the death of another, one to get to the throne, another for thirty pieces of silver.
Because of guilt, Macbeth’s wife became awfully self-conscious, bothered that herself and her husband will get caught; she was burdened with visions of Duncan’s blood on her hands. Subsequently, Lady Macbeth becomes paranoid and eventually commits suicide in a bid to escape the guilty feeling. Judas on the other hand feels remorse for handing over his master for silver, he attempts to return the money and eventually hangs himself. Two horrible stories of what guilt can do to a man. Think of that one time that you felt guilty for something that you knew better than to do; flashback to what your response to that act was.
Peter’s manner of dealing with guilt is an interesting contrast to how Lady Macbeth and Judas dealt with the guilt of their past sin. Dr. Luke recorded that immediately Peter denied Jesus for the third time, he remembered that Jesus told him that he will deny Him three times. Peter then excused himself, broke down and wept bitterly. You will notice that all three of the individuals written about in the foregoing were filled with remorse and regret for their past action. Unlike Lady Macbeth and Judas the Treasurer, Peter turned a new leaf, returned and even received words of comfort and exhortation from Jesus before Jesus finally ascended.
All three of these characters started off as potential great people, Lady Macbeth, headed to become a queen someday regardless of if she and her husband killed Duncan or not; Judas and Peter were headed towards becoming great proclaimers and proponents of the gospel; we all know what became of both disciples in the end.
Man is fallible and, except helped of God, is prone to using any means to accomplish his selfish goals. In pursuit of all these goals and dreams, many have become caught up in a web of their own actions and inactions. Unable to forgive themselves and accept forgiveness from God, these feeling of guilt is a core reason for insanity or sickness of the mind; some even kill themselves to escape the feelings of guilt and shame. The two stories illustrated in this piece shows the different ways in which feelings of guilt can be treated. I will also go on and suggest ways in which we can rise above our feelings of guilt, heal and become the best versions of ourselves.
Generally, the following are ways in which individuals deal with guilt:
To repress is to “subdue” or “quell”, many people consciously or unconsciously repress their guilt when they feel remorse over an act, they consider abominable. This coping mechanism is used to reject the consciousness of the guilt. Just like anything that is swept under the carpet, this guilty feeling eventually rears its head. Once repression fails, one begins to feel guilty again and must deal with the fertilized feeling of guilt.
People who do not want to be accountable for their wrong doings usually project their guilty feeling on others- particularly the victims or joint perpetrators. They tend to play the blame game. Projection of guilt is a defensive tool that wrongdoers use to criticize the victim in hopes that bystanders will look on their deeds more favorably than their own conscience. Every now and then, we hear rapists blame their victims for adorning themselves with “sexy” clothes. Individuals that deflect their wrongdoing and play the blame game do this to project their guilt on others. For them- “To hell with accountability” isn’t it?
Sharing Feelings of Guilt
We all know the age long saying- misery loves company”. Many will rather associate with people they feel comfortable committing their wrongdoings with so that they can feel better for their wrong actions and inactions. They will listen favorably to another’s deeds that they consider worse than theirs so as to assuage their own guilty feeling. “It is not that bad” they say.
Self-Harm and Self-Sabotage
Like Lady Macbeth and Judas Iscariot, several people resort to self-harm and sabotage. It is not enough that they are already in a hole, they continue to dig the hole around them by mooling over how they are mean, evil, “how could they have reduced themselves to that”. These people self-sabotage by not allowing themselves to enjoy favor, opportunities and benefits open to them because of their uncompensated guilty feeling. They may believe that they deserve every calamity that befalls them in compensation for what they have done in the past.
They count themselves unworthy of anything good. They believe that they are trash’s twin sister. A person who accidentally kills a child may decide to never have children in the future as a self-imposed punishment-literally bondage.
Subsequent Virtuous Character
A person who feels remorse over a past transgression may resort to a subsequent virtuous behavior; perhaps as true repentance or in a bid to superficially wash away the sins of the past. People in this category exercise strict restraints, try to compensate the victim, avoid self-indulgence, or even exhibit less prejudice all in a bid to alleviate their negative guilty feeling.
Lack of Guilt
Now, there is a set of people that do not feel any sense of guilt. Perhaps their conscience has been seared with hot iron; these people do not feel remorse for harm that they have inflicted on others. They can sleep in the middle of the ocean after committing murder or raping another individual. They may even rationalize, blame the victim, and deny the graveness of their actions out-rightly. These set of people are, to say the least, harmful. Lacking a sense of any form of remorse is a breach in the spirit- a lack of moral compass, dead conscience, lack of empathy. People like these are usually unable to develop quality relationships that require emotional bonds with others.
Good News Fellas!
Although God totally hates sin. He don’t condone it, he don’t deflect it, he don’t enable sin, he don’t make you feel good or comfortable committing sin; gracious God has promised to forgive us! He says:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn away from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will heal their land.”
Neither our feelings of guilt nor our subsequent pious actions can save us or wash away our past mistake. Our subsequent righteous character, deflection, projection or whatever cannot grant us a clean slate. When we recognize that we are wrong, as we often will be, it is best to turn from our wrongs to God. He will hear us as He has promised. The good news is that God is not out to be petty- dragging us by our edges in respect to our wrong doings. He is not out to condemn nobody. He is a father. He is willing to save and help us. God wants to forgive and help us- save us from our naturally sinful nature through Christ Jesus. Corinthians 5:21 makes us know that Jesus done did it- taken away our sin, so that he can exchange it with right standing with God.
Jesus’s blood literally became the atonement for our sins; and now forgiveness and salvation are a free gift for us all- but we gotta humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face and repent (turn from our wicked ways). Trust me on this one- if you think you have blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this, you my beautiful friend, are not that powerful. Do you feel like your sins are so grave that they are unforgivable? God is saying to you to bring that burden to him; he will exchange it with peace that surpasses all understanding. He will forgive you, heal you, help you, train you, guide you, lead you and change you.
I can assure you of this one, God is not petty, He will deliver you from what you have put yourself into and He will not hold it against you. God says that “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more”
Ready to give your life to God? You may say this short prayer- Sweet Jesus, I am ready to turn to you today. I welcome you to become my Lord and Savior. Forgive me of my wrongdoing and help me to be in right standing with you. I exchange my guilty feeling for your peace that surpasses all understanding. I release everyone that has hurt me in the past, accept your forgiveness and forgive myself today. Thank you, Jesus, for answered prayers.
God exchanges our past sin and guilt with salvation. Know this- there is no condemnation for someone who is in Christ, who does not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit of God.
Remember to receive God’s forgiveness and also forgive yourself. Do not self-sabotage. That serves no one. You are worthy of good things. Do not let your thoughts run amok by mooling over guilt. Release. Forgive.
Therapy is also always a good idea. Here are some links you may explore, if you feel you cannot deal with the guilty feelings on your own:
I hope this piece is helpful. Cheers to forgiving and healing.