How often do you find yourself dealing with guilt - wondering whether you said something hurtful, let someone down, left a job unfinished or failed at achieving a goal? Do you lay awake at night ruminating over feelings of shame, condemnation or thoughts of not measuring up?

Cindy had a falling out with a friend when she expressed frustration about being stood up for a luncheon date. Jeri confronted her mother because she was verbally abusive when Jeri was a child. Both women felt overwhelmed by guilt afterwards – rehearsing in their minds how they could have approached their situations differently.

Carolyn lives with the memories of making poor choices when she was a teenager. Now, she is a single parent living with the regret of not finishing her education or finding the man of her dreams.

What can these women do? How can they get past the torture of self-reproach and shame? I’d like to share with you four questions these women and you can ask yourself in order to conquer and move out of the guilt-trip:

What was the issue or event that occurred? Write out what actually occurred -- what the other person said and did.

How did I respond and what did I communicate? Describe what you said and how you acted. Rate your response and communication. Was it honest, respectful, loving and considerate? Did you stick to the facts or did you commit character assassination?

What can I do to make amends? Here is your opportunity to work on reconciliation. Call or write the person stating you now realize you may have been harsh or disrespectful. Apologize. State that you would like a fresh start. If you feel hurt by something he/she did – talk about what was said or done (the facts only) that hurt you. Make it clear that you want to move past this and build a better relationship.

Checking it out with God:
Another aspect in this step is to find out God's perspective on your guilty feelings.  You may need to make amends with the God of the universe. Consider what Jesus Christ has to offer you through His sacrifice and death on the cross. Once you trust in Him as Lord and Savior – you will experience reconciliation with the living God and forgiveness of sin. This decision to come into a relationship with Christ will set you free from the burden of guilt because He paid the penalty for all your sins and invites you to become part of His family.

Am I dealing with false or true guilt? It is important to realize that you may be dealing with false guilt. It may be that you are too critical of yourself or that someone else has caused you to feel badly when there is no basis for it. You may not have anything to apologize for. In that case, the problem lies within your own mind and you need to let it go. If someone is accusing and blaming you falsely you can work through the questions and weigh the evidence about whether you have done something hurtful or wrong. Ultimately, God is your judge. He is the One to whom you will give an account. He is the One you can run to when you are uncertain, confused and burdened.

Accepting yourself as a human being with frailties is another important aspect of getting beyond the guilt-trip. No one is perfect. No one can claim to be the best wife, housekeeper, dresser, professional or business woman, mother, single parent or most well-educated. Grow in understanding God’s perspective about your worth, your flaws and strengths.

Thank God for the grace He has for you, His unconditional love and ask Him for the power to move out of the guilt- trip.

Order: Learning to Tell Myself the Truth by William Backus or
What's So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey

© copyright 2007 Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC

Next in Part 11- you can take the True and False Guilt Survey....