The other day, I was with a group of parents and grandparents talking about the mistakes we made raising our children. Each of us shared our experiences and laughed our “guilt” out—we were laughing at one another’s stories but at the same time feeling so guilty for those mistakes. After hearing everyone’s stories, I felt relieved that I was not the only parent who made mistakes!
To err is human. However, some mistakes were not laughing matters because they caused permanent damage. We could brush off the small mistakes, but some big ones leave permanent scars and make us feel guilty for life, consciously or unconsciously. Even the small ones could accumulate and weigh our hearts down. The older we grow, the bigger burden of guilt we carry.
Even though we believe in a forgiving God, we just can’t seem to forgive ourselves for some regrettable issues in life. Have you wondered why it is? Even though we confess our sins to God frequently, some guilt still haunts us. You might say it’s because God has forgiven us, but we haven’t forgiven ourselves. If so, what does it take to forgive ourselves?
We cannot maintain peace within unless we resolve the guilt issue. The worse way to deal with guilt is denial—sweeping it under the rug and ignoring the role it plays in our daily life. Guilt doesn’t just disappear if we pretend it does not exist.
Guilt is an obstacle to peace. Internally guilt makes us depressed and stirs up anxiety. Externally it ruins relationships because guilty people tend to be angry. You feel like walking on eggshells around them. Guilt makes us defensive because we fear making more mistakes that might worsen our weight. We think the anger comes from the desire for justice, but the underlying guilt also triggers anger.
So, one of the ways to deal with an unreasonably angry person is to realize that it’s not you that they are attacking but the baggage of guilt they carry. Otherwise, you might retaliate and make things worse. Then you feel guilty and become an angry person—a domino effect.
Remember, “hurt people, hurt people.” This concept turns on our empathy. If someone tries to hurt you, you realize that person could be hurting inside.
Conversely, each time we get angry or snap at others, it reveals that we have something hurting inside us. All over the world, most people walk with hunched back, weighed down by the burden of guilt. Guilt triggers discords and even wars.
Throughout history, people invented many ways to atone for their sins. There’s an ethnic tribe in Western Burma nicked named “Headhunters” because they hunt for human heads seasonally to offer to their gods as a sacrifice. That’s a primitive way of atonement.
Nowadays, people go to temples to burn incents and offer alms for atonement. Some cultures sacrifice a lamb, a goat, or a calf for atonement. Some rich people give away their money for charity to atone for their guilt. A rich man in Thailand has a garden of statues, including Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, and all kinds of gods imaginable. He waters them every morning and prays to them, hoping that at least one of them will save him.
Humans do the weirdest things to cleanse their conscience. Guilt is a universal problem in this fallen world, but none of the solutions above work because they are more like bandages than cures. It’s like Lady Macbeth washing her hands. The spot never goes away.
The good news is God knows our plights and has provided a solution through Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b).
The Lamb of God is true atonement, so today, let’s examine how the Lamb of God takes away our sins and why some Christians still feel guilty and cannot have peace. This is the third message in the series of Cultivating PEACE Within. There are five pillars of peace forming a mnemonic acrostic PEACE. Previously, we talked about,
P – Presence: Protect God’s Presence in You
E – Emptiness: Empty My Ego
A – Atonement: Atone with Forgiveness
As I said above, guilt is a big obstacle in cultivating PEACE. It’s at the center of it and not so easy to get rid of because it keeps accumulating, but Jesus has revealed the secret. So, let’s look at how the Lamb of God teaches us to rid our guilt and cultivate peace.
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