Dealing with Guilt and Shame in the New Year
Guilt and Shame. Guilt and Shame. Guilt and Shame. The plague of the modern disassociated self is a sense of guilt and a life of shame. Everyone has emotional ailments and psychoses galore. And a whole heap of them are compensations for the feelings of guilt and shame. Guilt and shame plague and follow us like seagulls with a crab boat. And every time that we think that we have escaped them, they bound from behind the dumpster of the alley of life and mug us all over again.
There are whole industries devoted to dealing with the guilt and shame. We explain it away as a personal hang up. ‘I just gotta’ get over it.’ We convince ourselves that (despite the evidence to the contrary) ‘I am better than this.’ We blame our parents or teachers or the rassafrassin politicians that are screwing up this country. We attack those closest to us as if they are root from which our guilt and shame grow. We go to psychologists and counselors or talk to random people on the street (or as just recently happened to me, in line at the grocery store) to find someone that can help us get rid of the feelings, because they don’t seem in the least bit interested in leaving us alone.
But what always seems to be assumed is that the feelings of guilt and shame are unfounded. It never seems to cross our minds that the feelings of guilt might come from the fact that we are guilty, that the feelings of shame might come from the truth that what we have been doing is shameful. In short, what if our guilt and shame actually come from sin? Because the modern world has gone way out of its way to deny the reality of sin, guilt and shame seem like alien invaders, living in our lives as if they don’t belong.
But the reality is that the banishing of the reality or possibility of sin is the reason that we don’t know what to do with our guilt and our shame. If we are sinners, then guilt and shame are fit for us. They make sense. They are proper. And there is something to do with sin.
If our problem is that we feel guilt and shame, there is nothing to do but practice psychological gymnastics. If our problem is sin then the solution is forgiveness. Sin can be dealt with. Jesus died for sin. If we are guilty of sin then Jesus, the incarnate son of God came and died it. Jesus was crucified for the guilt of sin. And he was crucified naked for the shame of sin. And because Jesus died for our sin, when God forgives us of our sin, the root of our guilt and shame has been eliminated. Sin can be forgiven. And when God forgives sin, he forgets it. The sin is gone and the guilt and shamefulness are forgotten.
So this year, be a sinner. Come and agree with God that you are guilty of sin and that it is shameful. And then trust that Jesus took your sin and shame and nailed it the cross. Make 2014 a year full of the freedom of confession and forgiveness.