Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Guilt keeps us from growing, from becoming all God wants us to be. If you’re going to learn how to really enjoy life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt. The truth is, none of us is faultless. We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes. So we all have regrets. We all have remorse.
There are a lot of ways you react in life that are caused by unconscious guilt – things you feel bad about without even being aware of it. We may deny our guilt. We may repress our guilt. We may blame other people for our guilt. We may excuse our guilt. But we still feel the effects of our guilt.
If you’re really going to recover from the hurts, and habits, and hang-ups in your life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt – how to live with a clear conscience.
Here are three ways to come clean and get rid of guilt.
1. Take a personal moral inventory of your life.
What that means is that you get alone by yourself. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us examine our ways and test them” (GNT). When you take this moral inventory, you need to take your time. Don’t rush it. I’ve done this many times in my life. It’s a regular habit, a discipline that keeps me in tune, growing, and healthy. So find some time to get alone with pen and paper and write down what you’re feeling guilty about.
Why do this in writing? Because it forces you to be specific. Why can’t I just think about these things, pray about them. Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips. If you’ve thought about it, can say it, and can write it down, you have a very clear handle on it. Writing it down helps you to be specific and avoid denying problems.
2. Accept responsibility for your faults.
Proverbs 20:27 says, “The Lord gave us a mind and conscience. We cannot hide from ourselves” (NIV). The greatest hold-up in the healing for your hang-up is you. It starts with being radically honest and saying, “I’m the problem.” Don’t rationalize. Don’t minimize it. And don’t blame others.
If you really want to stop defeating yourself, you have to stop deceiving yourself. What are you pretending to not feel guilty about? After writing it on your moral inventory, you then look at your list and admit to each fault.
3. Admit your faults to God and to another person.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable. He forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil” (Phillips).
To admit, or to confess, means to speak the same thing about the stuff on your list that God says about it. It just means to say, “God, You’re right, it’s wrong.” Agree with God. The basis for forgiveness is because He’s utterly reliable. It’s God’s nature. And confessing our faults to God is essential to your being freed from guilt. And you also need to tell another person.
I am only as sick as my secrets. The secrets you hold on to are the secrets that make you sick. Revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing. When you risk honesty with one person, all of a sudden, freedom comes into your life. You realize that everybody has problems and that they often have the same problems you have. There is something deeply therapeutic about confessing our faults. It’s God’s way of freeing us.
When we confess our faults to God, we can then claim his grace and forgiveness. And when we confess our faults to others, we shed the secrecy and guilt and start to heal and overcome our weaknesses. God wants to give you freedom, and he invites you to be honest, trusting that he will be gracious.