Guilt. I've spent most of my life well-acquantainted with that feeling. Whether I'd done something to validate that feeling wasn't a question. The only thing that mattered was doing whatever it took to rid myself of the feeling.
My earliest childhood memories are interspersed with memories of guilt. If my parents, sisters, teachers, or anyone really, even hinted that I'd done something wrong, or something to hurt them, the feelings of guilt were instantaneous. To even suggest that I'd done something mean or hurtful would send me into a tailspin of guilt. I was judge and jury, and would always deliver myself a guilty verdict. Even if I knew in the deepest part of my heart that I'd done absolutely nothing wrong, I would eventually find myself apologizing to assuage my feelings of guilt. Then I'd be angry at myself for apologizing when I'd done nothing wrong. This has been a continuous cylce in my life...until January 2009.
I believe Americans are a loaded down with false guilt. Advertising and propaganda leave us feeling guilty about everything from parenting to politics. And, I believe many American Christians (those who have an intimate relationship with Jesus) are almost buried with feelings of false guilt. Society tells us we're not sensitive enough or loving enough if we're not tolerant and politically correct (and for some reason, we buy into the lie and feel guilty, leaving ourselves completely incapable of sharing the Gospel!!). The burden of legalism prevalent in so many churches leaves us feeling guilty for everything we do, or don't do, according to the standards they've set.
Recently, after reading some of my posts, I've had two friends apologize to me for different reasons. And, interestly enough, neither apology was necessary...AT ALL! But they assumed the subjects of my posts were about something they'd done. (Maybe I'm a little too open in these posts...) Not wanting to be the guilty parties, they apologized for things they thought were hurtful to me. I applaud their willingness to apologize when necessary; however, in these cases, their feelings of guilt were unfounded. That's when I began to think about how often I've done the very same thing.
In 2006, I became disgusted with feeling guilty all the time. I felt guilty for feeling guilty. That's when I decided that I wanted freedom from the stronghold of guilt that had held me captive my entire life. Rather than seeking that freedom at the foot of the cross, I went in the opposite direction. I sought freedom in a place that only loaded me down with more guilt...real guilt.
In January of 2009, God freed me from the stronghold of false guilt. I no longer experience the battles that come from false guilt. I no longer feel the need to apologize when I know I've done nothing wrong or hurtful. I no longer confess the same sins repeatedly, asking for forgiveness over and over again. Don't get me wrong...I do experience conviction and guilt when I have done something wrong or hurtful. And I make a point to apologize. And I seek God's forgiveness. (See Psalm 51) But I no longer daily walk in a state of false guilt. In fact, I almost never experience false guilt now. Because of the freedom I found in Christ, that is one burden that I laid down at the foot of the cross, and haven't picked back up!
btw...I'll approach the subject of real guilt at another time! I'm well acquainted with that one too!!