Two Ways to Get Rid of Guilt

Guilt is a pesky thing, isn’t it? You’re cruising along doing whatever it is you do, and then those pangs of guilt hit as hard as last night’s bean burrito. A good dose of Pepto-Bismol can help with the aftermath of dinner, but what about the guilt?

There are two ways you can get rid of that unwanted and unsightly guilt but—SPOILER ALERT!—one of them doesn’t work.

Redefine the Source of Your Guilt.

Go ahead and laugh, but at least they weren’t wearing plaid and stripes together.

Secular and non-religious groups challenge the whole notion of guilt. They claim that guilt is a by-product of being falsely told that your behavior was wrong. “People have forced their own rules on you. You think it is wrong because someone told you it was wrong—but it isn’t wrong at all.”

I was raised with the belief that you do NOT wear plaid and stripes together (or colors that clash). Growing up, I did not want to be guilty of what adults around me considered a fashion faux pas. I know now that such a rule is really not a rule, but even today when I wear atrociously obnoxious colors in the privacy of my home, I still feel an occasional pang of guilt. I shouldn’t look like a three-year-old who dressed himself. What if someone rings the doorbell?

That’s false guilt—and it’s tied to something that is not a real rule. And that’s exactly how the world wants us to view any feelings of guilt.

For a British TV show called “The New Ten Commandments,” 65,000 people were asked which of the Ten Commandments were still relevant. “Do not kill” and “Do not steal” were still deemed relevant, but the other eight Commandments were tossed. In their place, the people suggested commands about protecting your family, avoiding violence, and caring for children. (Peter Stevenson, Preaching the Atonement, 166–67).

To remove guilt, the world tells us either to deny we’ve sinned at all or redefine what sin is. However, deep down, there remains a nagging murmur that something is not right. We can cover our ears, shout loudly, and hope to drown out the sound of our guilt, but it is still there. We can “sear our conscience” (1 Tim. 4:2) by continually denying the truth, but the guilt remains. Thankfully, there’s a better option—one that works.

Repent of the Source of Your Guilt

In God’s covenant with His people, He gave them a set of instructions: the Ten Commandments. These are timeless truths that apply to all people at all times and in all places. These Commands are still relevant, and yes, they cause a good pang of guilt when we break them. But God did not give us these rules to dampen life and make us miserable. He gave us these commands in order to enjoy life and get the most out of it.

The guilt we feel is a reminder that we have stepped outside God’s rules and God’s best for us. But let’s be clear: that guilt is not some mere feeling; it is a real state where we are culpable before God and deserve punishment. Yikes.

Here’s the kicker. God knew we’d blow these commands. He knew we would disobey. He knew we would be guilty, yet He resolved to do something about it.

Enter Jesus. God’s Son came to earth, lived the sinless, guiltless life we could not, and willingly took our own guilt and sin upon Himself. He died in our place, removing forever our sin and guilt. All that remains is for us to trust Jesus.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

“For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame” (10:11).

We don’t try to explain away our sin, make excuses, or justify what we’ve done. We own up to our sin, acknowledging our guilt. We grieve over what we’ve done, but that grief should lead us to repent.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).

If you want to play mind games about your guilt, go ahead—but at the end of the day, you’re still guilty. I’m so thankful that Jesus took my guilt away. His act of love draws me to love Him … trust Him … follow Him … obey Him.

“If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Subscribe to this blog at the top of the page! And encourage others by sharing this post.

For a printable version: click here.

This post supports the study “God’s Promise to Make a Holy Nation” in Bible Studies for Life and YOU.


Join Lynn Pryor and Chris Johnson as they discuss this topic:

Editor's Picks