The definition of guilt is a feeling that you have done something wrong or bad or let someone down, or the state of having broken a law.
- The state of having done a wrong or committed an offense; culpability, legal or ethical
- A painful feeling of self-reproach resulting from a belief that one has done something wrong or immoral
- Conduct that involves guilt; crime; sin
Wikipedia says “Guilt is an effective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done). It gives rise to a feeling which does not go away easily, driven by conscience".
I think women in general struggle constantly with guilt. I know I do. I wish it would go away. It tends to suck the joy out of my life. Today I decided to face some things I feel guilty for. Some are big, some are small, and I feel different levels of guilt for each one.
-I don’t pray enough for my family.
-I get angry and sin.
-I am not “quick to listen and slow to speak”. More often, I am already speaking before my kids even finish their request.
-I don’t play enough with my kids.
-I am impatient and expect perfection (even though I say I don’t).
-I am inconsistent with my discipline and seem to change the “rules” on my kids constantly.
-I sometimes feed my kids processed “convenience” foods. I don’t shop in the organic section much.
-I can’t serve in my church as much as I would like to.
-I lack faith in big and small areas. I wish I didn't get discouraged so quickly.
-I didn't spend much time in the classroom with my kids last year, even though I said I wanted to.
-I pick up after my kids constantly, because I don’t want the fight.
-I sometimes pretend I didn't hear the disrespectful look or tone because I just can’t deal with it right then.
-I warn and lecture, warn and lecture because I don’t want to follow through and discipline my kids.
Well, there you have it! Here is a very honest list. The problem is that many things on this list are generalized. True guilt is when you have done something specific wrong and the Holy Spirit reveals it to you. The enemy, Satan, is the one who throws these kinds of lists of generalizations in our faces and tries to get us to feel guilty so that he will discourage us and render us ineffective.
So if I go back and examine this list again, I will actually find that yes, I fail sometimes. I have a lot to work on. But that’s the key! I am working on some of these things. There are things that I have to do on this list that are out of my control, such as not being able to serve in my church or at the kid’s school. It’s a season and it will change someday. I can’t help it if organic food costs 2/3rds more than regular food. I am doing the best I can do grocery shopping on a tight food budget.
Let’s go to the prayer thing. I pray every day for my kids. What is the deal with feeling guilty about that? Is there some kind of magic number? No! I need to get over this perfectionist type of prayer. It isn’t godly and no matter how much I pray, God will allow trials to come into their lives and I have to remember that my children have such a thing called FREE WILL.
In truth, I am working constantly on my anger and impatience with the kids. It is a process and I am better this year than I was last year.
Yes, my faith is lacking sometimes, but then I look at where I am spiritually today from just a year and a half ago and I can see that I have had tremendous growth. Refinement happens when you go through some big trials.
I was feeling guilty the other day over something. I was worshipping and felt the Holy Spirit stir within me. I confessed it immediately, confessed it again before taking communion (just to be sure God heard me), and I was still feeling guilty during the message. I kept asking God to take it away. By faith, I knew I was cleansed by the blood of Jesus, yet that twinge of guilt was still there. I got home and called my sister. I confessed my sin to her and she was able to counsel me. You know what she said? “Get over it! Move on!” I guess, I just needed that extra push because I hadn’t let go of it in my mind yet. I hadn't really accepted God's forgiveness.
What are you feeling guilty over? Can you relate to anything on this list? Is your guilt generalized or specific? When you have identified some of these things, confess it to God! Stop trying to be a perfectionist (like me) and start walking in some freedom.
Look at the good things you are doing! Are your children fed, clothed, and kissed and hugged? Are you imparting spiritual truths to them as you go about your day? Perfectionists can't see the forest for the trees. Focus and acknowledge the "right" things you do.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."-Phillipians 4:8-9
Get over it and move on into effectiveness!