GUILT IS A BLACK EMOTIONAL ABYSS surrounded by high walls of formidable strength. Who among us hasn't suffered from this haunting, nagging feeling of evil, failure, or sinfulness?
Of course there is actual guilt for the Bible pronounces all mankind guilty in certain areas and the Holy Spirit specifically lays on each one of us the awareness of our sins. We are definitely guilty and must repent and turn away from evil as it is revealed to us throughout our Christian life. However if we dwell for a prolonged time in this emotional wasteland, using energy and wallowing in its depths, we misunderstand God. He reveals our sinfulness, not to chain us to its haunting despair, but to help us know ourselves, ask forgiveness, and be cleansed.
If the guilty story ended here we would know how to escape from its clutches. However in the depths of our being, surfacing now and then to plague us, are feelings that we have transgressed or misbehaved which cause us severe emotional conflict. We are unable to set ourselves free because we do not know the source of our problem. We only feel and the feeling is guilt.
The first step to being creative in this area is to realize that the root of our conflict may have been established within us long before we were capable of determining right or wrong. It was created by the value system of a significant other in our life -- what they considered good or bad, valuable, acceptable or unacceptable. These concepts may or may not have actual basis in the reality of good and evil. However, once this value system is part of us, this fact does not alter the emotional conflict that comes when we stray from its set boundaries.
Overcoming the early conditioning to which our consciences have been subjected is not easy. But it is essential both for human and spiritual maturity that we examine these areas in which we feel anxiety and decide whether they are or are not in harmony with the moral structure we are building with the help of the Holy Spirit.
One area that exudes with guilt for women is motherhood. Sometimes when out of emotional necessity she must meet her own needs first, she suffers great emotional trauma. She feels extremely selfish when she must remove herself for a time from the role expectations of being a mother and become just another human being. Deep within all of us are guidelines for the roles we have in life and to vary from them causes haunting feelings of failure. Painful as this may be, we must bring the set behavior patterns into the light to be evaluated realistically.
Because the writer of this article is mainly interested in the spiritual realm we will consider also the behavior patterns that may have been imposed on us as new Christians. It is very similar to the conditioning produced in the human baby. A mature Christian must find what pleases and displeases God for himself and build his behavior pattern on this. (Imposing a value system on a new Christian is interfering with the work of the Holy Spirit and may in the end topple, taking with it the Christian, himself.)
Listen! When I first heard the message of Jesus it was coupled with the famous (or infamous) do's and don'ts. In my mind they were one and the same. I was nine years old at the time the Holy Spirit convicted me and I asked Jesus to be my Savior. For a time I tried to follow Jesus, which I thought meant to do the do's and not do the don'ts. I was troubled mostly by the admonition -- do not go to the movies. You know the end of the story, don't you? One day I succumbed to temptation. My Christian life collapsed as a result and it was fifteen years before I returned. And can you guess what movie I attended? The Wizard of Oz! Was that such an evil to separate me from Jesus? I thought so because that was what I was taught. It has taken me years to escape from that value system imposed on me with the salvation message. Sometimes I still feel guilty.
Of course, at times we should feel guilt. But to be creative in our Christian life with this feeling is our objective. To do this, check all anxieties, one by one, as they occur, with the Holy Spirit. Is He convicting you or is it your set behavior pattern causing you emotional conflict?
"Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and well pleasing."
Romans 12: 2
"Now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord."
Ephesians 5: 8-10
If you do this, your feelings of guilt will be turned into the knowledge of the truth and the truth will set you free. How creative can you get?