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Gripped by Guilt

posted Sep 2, 2014, 9:18 AM by First Baptist


You’ve probably heard of the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. For many losses (not all, and maybe not even the majority), I would add something else: guilt.


Is this loss my fault? Should I have been able to prevent it?


Guilt can be one of our strongest emotions. There are 2 broad categories of guilt:


1)      Objective guilt occurs whenever a wrong has been committed. In such an instance, a person is guilty even though he or she may not feel guilty.

2)      Subjective guilt refers to the feelings of remorse and self-condemnation that come because of our actions.


Subjective guilt can either be appropriate or inappropriate. Appropriate guilt feelings are present when we have broken a law, disobeyed a biblical teaching, or violated the dictates of our own conscience and we feel remorse in proportion to the seriousness of our actions. Inappropriate guilt feelings are out of proportion to the seriousness of the act.


Whenever a wrong has been committed, we SHOULD feel guilty. Ideally, the moral pain we feel will motivate us to change and to seek forgiveness from God and others.


However, in those cases where guilt lingers (and never gets resolved), the moral pain we feel can become very destructive – leading to such conditions as depression, anxiety, isolation, aggression, fear, apathy, hopelessness and suicidal tendencies. The point is: guilt doesn’t just go away; it’s like cancer in that it becomes increasingly dangerous. Dr. Gary Collins goes so far as to argue that guilt is the crucial factor in most of our emotional problems.


The first step toward freedom from guilt is confession. Let me say this as clearly as I can:


Confession (rightly understood and practiced) is absolutely necessary for the removal of guilt.


The Bible tells us that confession “purifies” (I John 1:9) and “heals” (James 5:16). That’s what we need, right?


Ken Sande, the founder of Peacemaker Ministries, provides the 7 A’s of confession:


1)      Address everyone involved. Begin with God.

2)      Avoid if, but and maybe. These words tend to shift the blame or cancel out the confession.

3)      Admit specifically. A blanket or general confession has little meaning.

4)      Apologize. Give expression to your sorrow and regret.

5)      Accept the consequences. Otherwise, confession may be a ploy to evade consequences.

6)      Alter your behavior.

7)      Ask for forgiveness – of both God and others who were wronged.


The more serious the offense, the more critical it is to include all 7 “A’s” in your confession. Next week, I address the matter of receiving God’s forgiveness, which is the second step in freedom from guilt.



Pastor Dan