3 Ways to Overcome Guilt and Shame

Ever felt guilty about something you did, said, or maybe didn’t say?

We all have. It’s ok. You aren’t alone.

Guilt and Shame – they have a tendency to sneak into our lives and they have affected every single one of us at some point in our life – from a accidental harsh word to hurting someone deeply in our life.

Guilt and shame are very similar – they follow similar patterns – typically cause similar feelings on the inside.

However there is a slight difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt is when we feel bad and remorseful for something we have done, or not done – so we feel guilty for our actions or lack thereof.

When we do something that is in conflict with what we feel is right or wrong, an emotion will be set-off. Often it is that we feel guilty.

  • I feel guilty when I broke moms lamp.
  • I feel guilty when I miss the game winning shot.
  • I feel guilty when I told my kids we would go somewhere and I broke the promise causing them to be disappointed.
  • I feel guilty that I ate that piece of chocolate cake…
  • I feel guilty that I spent that money
  • I feel guilty that I don’t go to church – read my bible like I should – pray at all times not just the bad. I feel guilty when I doubt – or ask questions

Shame is something that causes us to feel bad for who we are

Shame often causes us to feel as if we are not good enough.

  • We failed at something – well now we are a failure at everything.
  • We believe that our last relationship that didn’t work out the way we wanted – or anticipated – now we are unlovable – and no one will ever want to be with us or love us again.
  • We think that because this happened in my past – this is who I am – I am only and will forever be an addict – I am only someone who is divorced – I am only that mistake – I am only used up old has been.

Craig Groeschel in his book Christian Atheist outlines how shame and guilt usually follow a pattern or cycle — a cycle that leads to lies that we ultimately end up believing as the truth.

Shame Cycle 

An Event happens that causes us to feel guilty

  • Again – we realize we took something that wasn’t ours – we miss the game winning shot – we break a promise to our kids – we lose our job – make a poor financial decision…

Second, instead of overcoming the initial event – and feelings of guilt – we let this guilt sit with us.

We begin to believe the lie that we should feel guilty – in fact, that guilt – that pain – that failure is not just something we did – or had done to us – but is now who we are – forever.

Enter Shame.

Finally, our feelings of shame trap us into thinking that we can never recover – never overcome – and cause us to think we don’t even deserve to recover from such things – which ultimately leads us to believe – how could anyone ever love me like this – and how could God love me like this?

When our past pain becomes our present identity, this cycle of guilt and shame has claimed yet another victim.

There is a way out – this way out is different for every single person – but the way out is possible. It is possible through the grace and love of God.

Peter – Jesus’ disciple understood guilt – he understood shame – and he also understood the freedom that come by being an overcomer of that guilt and shame.

Peter was Jesus’ Rock – he was the disciple that followed Jesus instantly and was quick to acknowledge Jesus was the Christ. Peter was on the mountain for the transfiguration and present for the miracles Jesus performed.

Peter was The Guy for Jesus – and yet even The Guy isn’t able to escape guilt and shame.

Peter was alto the disciple who denied Jesus three times when Jesus needed him the most.

In Peter’s desperate cry for forgiveness – with the rooster still crowing in the background – God heard his plea.

Three days after he abandoned his best friend, Peter was restored and reminded that there is nothing he could ever do that would change the love Jesus has for him.

Peter’s failure and subsequent shame was transformed from a tragedy into triumph through his repentance and God’s forgiveness.

If you find yourself dealing with guilt and shame – Like Peter – here are 3 ways to be an overcomer of the guilt and shame in your life.

We Overcome guilt and shame by seeking forgiveness

From God.

  • This may not be weeping uncontrollably like Peter in the courtyard – or like Jackson on our living room couch – but confessing that we made a mistake and are seeking forgiveness from God – weeping may indeed be a byproduct though.
  • Saying and acknowledging that we are filthy dirty and need a spiritual shower.
  • Removing the masks in our life and essentially standing naked before God – acknowledging that we cannot hide the guilt and shame anymore.
  • This is the get on your knees in prayer and repentance and come to Jesus moment of life.

From Others

  • This starts with going to the person – face-to-face (like we talked about last week) and talking with them about what happened and offering a heartfelt apology – not like the ones my kids give (with smiles, smirks and nothing that resembles they are sorry).
  • We need to realize – situation depending – that some of the people we go to – have been wounded deeply from our actions – and they may not immediately forgive us. Realize it is a process and it make take years – many years – for them to completely forgive (if that happens at all)
  • However our repentance is the first step – and although the attempts to make amends don’t instantly heal what was broken – it does start the healing process – for them (whether they realize it or not) and ourselves. When we are harboring guilt and shame we are carrying around a lot of weighted stress – when we go to someone in an act of forgiveness we in turn shoulder less of the guilt and shame we have been carrying around. The feeling may not totally be gone, but it will lessen over time.

From Ourselves

  • The forgiveness of ourselves may be one of the hardest things we do in the whole process.
  • Forgiving ourselves means we acknowledge what happened and accept the fact that the past cannot be changed – what is done is done – we cannot undo it.
  • Forgiving ourselves means we take a good hard look at what is going on. This is the Check Yourself before You wreck Yourself again…moment.
  • Forgiving ourselves means we accept that we are – flawed and broken – yet completely restored because of Jesus.
  • I love this thought – It comes from Peter Scarzzero in his book Emotional Healthy Church when he says, “The Gospels says that we are more sinful and flawed that we ever dared believe, and yet …We Are more acceptable and loved than we ever dared hope because Jesus lived and died in our place.”
  • When we forgive ourselves we begin to live knowing that God’s grace is greater than anything we will do. We begin living knowing that we are more accepted and loved because of Jesus. We begin living knowing that we too are restored just like Peter was.

We overcome guilt and shame by believing and embracing who God says we are.

While we may always remember what happened in our past, we need to believe that we are not what happened.

When we reject what our shame says about us, we can finally hear what God says about us.

Peter did not believe that he was his mistake – he lived life as a follower of Jesus – not a traitor.

Like Peter, we too can become convinced of the truth: namely, that we are not our sins.

We are not our shame. We are not our guilt. We are not that bad mistake. We are not that oops. We are not the worst decisions we ever made. We are not what others have done to us nor are we what society tells us we are.

Rather, we are who God says we are.

We are Sons. We are daughters.

We are forgivable. We are able.

We are lovable. We are acceptable.

We are Restorable.

We are Beautiful and Sacred – because God created us that way – and that will never change regardless of what happens in this life.

We are His – and God says to us – I love you and there is nothing you could ever do in this life to make me love you any less.

We Overcome guilt and shame by accepting that God can and will use our story.

God has an incredible purpose for us. He will use us. He will use our story to change lives and further the Kingdom – just like he did with Peter.

We are overcomers because of this – and God will find a way to make our story known – so that he can use our story for his purpose

Because Peter overcame his mistake – you and I have the opportunity to overcome ours – we have a great pattern to follow – Seek Forgiveness – Embrace who God says we are – Accept that God can and will use our story – and know that there is nothing in this world that we will ever do to make God love us any less.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Follow me on Twitter – @revhoward18



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