“Guilt can either hold you back from growing or it can show you what you need to shift in your life”
As I turn towards my dining room table I hear Serenity’s four paws hit the floor. I instantly know exactly where she has been, on my dining room table. “Serenity!” I yell with a mommy’s mean voice. “Were you on the table again?” As alwasy she responds by guiltily tucking in her tail and walking slowly to her crate.
Now some would argue that she thinks you are getting after her for jumping from the chair and not the table. Well, she is certain now! I kept an eye out until sometime in late September I caught her on the table slurping some food my middle daughter had left on the table. Serenity was only 4-5 ft away when I ran into action as I yelled “Serenity! NO! NO!” She jumped from the table.
I caught her mid-air and told her what a bad girl she had been! Well, that freaked her out. If she had any doubts about what she had been getting in trouble for. You better believe she has no doubt now! Yep! This doggie not only knew she was caught, but knows she is guilty, and on top of that she knows her punishment.
She hasn’t been near the table since. She had run, again with her tail tucked, to her crate feeling guilty and ashamed. She, in fact, stayed there quite some time. Funny, when I explained to Todd what she had done and he had looked over at her, Serenity would not even look at him… Yes, guilt is a powerful tool, even for dogs.
People are like Serenity. Yet people are different. We take guilt to a new level. Not only do we feel guilty when we are caught, and we are guilty, but become defiant at times for feeling guilt. (God forbid we are actually guilty). We hence have 2 different reactions in 3 three different forms:
1. We feel so bad that we take the road to change whatever caused that guilt by doing better and allowing it to change us for the better, or get better at hiding the feeling because if we ignore it, we can pretend it is just not there.
2. We respond to the person who caught us by apologizing and sometimes promise to do better (humbling ourselves) or being angry that they caught us and respond with hate as if it is their fault.
3. We admit to ourselves what we did wrong, and do not repeat it at all, or we simply refuse to allow it to change us, letting pride take over by telling ourselves we did nothing wrong… or worse, they deserve it…
So, either we feel bad, apologize and admit we did wrong, or we become defiant, blame others and justify the wrong.
These two opposite responses have a big impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. We create a void within ourselves or between “me” and “him”/”her”/ “them”. We wind up justifying what we did by blaming others or just by blaming the event itself. We forget the reason why “guilt” is a feeling altogether and we somehow blame the person for making us feel guilty. We somehow jump over the “being” guilty and right into “feeling” guilty. Somehow, it is someone’s else fault. Another words, we refuse to accept that we may be guilty after all and we wouldn’t feel guilty if that person wouldn’t point it out. Because feeling guilty is wrong. We refuse to realize it, but guilt has it’s chain around us and there is no escape.
When we feel guilty..
Surely, not all feelings of guilt are due to something we have done wrong. It may be that we are innocent, but somehow got caught up in the web of someone else’s wrong. Yet, we can use the feeling as a way to learn how to be more careful. We may have made a decision that led to it, like running with the wrong people knowing that they like to cause trouble. (Some events occur around us with bad results without us having anything to do with it. Then it becomes a “victim’s guilt.”) Sometimes we just need to talk to someone who we trust and they can help us clarify the feeling of guilt. It is important to understand the difference here.
In reality, the feeling of guilt is our conscious bringing up the feeling we have done wrong, and therefore we may be guilty. That guilt is the process that we must go through in order to learn how to better make decisions that are RIGHT. Overall, we need to have that feeling of “guilt.” Just like “Fear” causes us to be careful, to pay attention and warns us when something may not be right, “Guilt” is the aftermath when our choices have been wrong. To ignore it, or blame it on others, (through anger and hate) is like a dog who continues to jump on the table regardless of the punishments, or one who actually snaps and bites it’s owner for getting after it.
“Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘“What? Are we blind too?”’ Jesus said, ‘“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”‘ —John 9:40-41 NIV
Re-evaluating instead of ignoring (which, by the ways, leads to the feeling of anger), our guilt may be very difficult and painful at times, but in the long run, we become better for it. We need to be truthful with ourselves and see, “did I really do something wrong here” or is “so and so” making me feel guilty for something they have done. Either way, facing it strengthens us, helps us make better decisions and ultimately helps us have a more peaceful life.
Jesus himself teaches us the need to see the wrongs we have done, and admit them to God and ourselves. We must find the truth in forgiveness so that we wont be “guilty of sin.” He does not want us to be chained to it, but find freedom from guilt. This is where Jesus’ forgiveness is important. There is an extraordinary feeling when we have put that guilt to rest by evaluating it, accepting it when it is our fault and dealing with it. Resolving our feelings may take time, but is very well worth it in the end.
“.. let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” –Hebrews 10:22 & 23
I’m pretty sure Serenity has learned her lesson and now she will be happier because she wont get in trouble since she has changed her ways. Hopefully I can be even better than her and remember my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. I find peace knowing that I have gone through the evaluating process and no longer feel guilt. If anything, I do hate feeling guilty, even more than dogs hate it when we tell them they have been “bad.” So, as I go through my weird and unique life I will continue to be humbled enough to re-evaluate any guilt that may come my way. For me, the Holy Spirit places that unnerving sense of guilt when I go against God’s will. It is necessary in my life as it is in all of our lives. Without it we cannot change and be transformed for the better. Without knowing when we have gone astray we cannot grow or feel free of our guilt. My unique life needs to continue to go forward guilt free. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness that sets me free, and that unique peace that only You can give.