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The Complexities of Guilt Complexes

May 15th, 2009

Focus Text: Proverbs 14: 9 (NLT) 

9 Fools make fun of guilt,
      but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation. 


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Ah, guilt!  Now here’s a topic I actually know something about.  It has been theorized by those around me that my guilt complexes are more like psychological apartment complexes large enough to comfortably house the entire Dharma Initiative from the television show, Lost.  Sometimes, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty enough . . . and then I feel guilty that I feel too guilty all the time.  As I’ve said before, the lines between illness and brilliance are blurry . . . all I know is that I don’t feel that brilliant, so you do the math.

My parents often joke that when I was a little kid I would come to them requesting physical punishment for a crime they had yet to find out I had committed.  Somewhere in the midst of my psychological and spiritual development, guilt became a core value of mine.  Eventually, it morphed into a debilitating enemy of my peace.  

To be honest, I suppose that I’ve always thought that my excessive guilt justified the obvious lack of perfection that I was facing.  Guilt can be another form of control that we exert.  I can’t seem to control the fact that I have this weakness, so instead I’ll control my emotional and spiritual reaction to it by placing myself in this cage of guilt.  I will always feel badly about something and maybe, just maybe, God will look on that with pity and I will make it through in the end.

As I share this with you in the utmost vulnerability, I imagine that some of you have gone from slightly amused to strangely empathetic.  Guilt can easily become the dominant feeling of our lives.  I’m not a good enough parent.  I constantly struggle with this task at work.  Dad left because of me.  I feel distant from God because despite my constant begging for forgiveness, it’s just not enough.

The answer is not to disregard guilt and laugh it off . . . too many in our world already do this and the result is the searing of our consciousnesses from feeling the difference between right and wrong.  That’s why this passage states, “Fools make fun of guilt . . . “  Guilt is not something to be ignored altogether.  It can lead to good actions, yet it can also cripple us if not placed in the proper spiritual perspective.  So, where is the mysterious compartment where within we place this most mystifying and dominant emotion?

It is a form of fear and insecurity.  Oddly enough, it’s also a form of pride.  How so?  Well, guilt assumes that an individual is powerful enough in his or herself to adequately make payment for a wrong committed or a weakness shown.  It can be an unwillingness to turn the issue over . . . to let it go and forgive oneself.  Again, it’s taking control of something that we may not be able to control.  At the root, that’s the issue: our inability to attain forgiveness and reconciliation on our own.

Guilt is a God-designed emotion, yet like so many things, it has been counterfeited and distorted by the enemy.  Therefore, we must put it in its proper place and allow it to motivate us to the correct actions, not hinder us from taking action.  Forgiveness and justification is only offered in one place  . . . and by One person.  Pride creeps in when we refuse to accept the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice and continue to bear the load of guilt on our own.  

Either what He did was enough to make us clean or it wasn’t.

I’m learning that once I’ve asked for forgiveness and sought “reconciliation,” guilt should no longer be a huge backpack that I have to carry.  Trust me, I’m still learning.  But I know that the grace of my best Friend and Savior, Jesus, was expensive enough to pay any debts I may accrue.  So let’s not ignore guilt . . . but let’s not make it a household fixture either.  May we let it motivate us to seek reconciliation and take action as the grace of the only Perfect One makes full payment on our debts.  Then, it’s time to let it go.

Someone may want to repost this for me tomorrow when I deal with it again.


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