Guilt – A Self-Inflicted Wound

What follows is an article I have just read addressing the issue of ‘guilt’. Guilt and self-pity often walk hand-in-hand bringing down an immense sense of helplessness and hopeless. The self-focus of these two keeps a person’s eyes off God and thoroughly fixed on the problem(s) they struggle with. The article is written by Alfred C.W. Davis, MBA, M.Div. of Agape Healing International Inc.

Many Christians say they feel detached, numb, alone and cut off from God. They often describe their situation as feeling like being in a prison, a pit, a box or some type of bondage. When I hear these words in a person’s story, along with the descriptors of shame and self-criticism, I begin to listen for the condition of “guilt” that presents itself as a lack of self-forgiveness . I define guilt as: atoning for one’s own sin through self-punishment. Leanne Payne describes it in her book “The Healing Presence” as “our failure to receive forgiveness from God – P.82.”

In our culture, we are taught to be responsible and performance oriented. We learn that we need to do things to take care of ourselves. When we experience a feeling of remorse, we intuitively start to do something to deal with it in our own strength. God’s solution of confession, repentance and receiving the forgiveness of the cross seems too easy. So, we use our superior intelligence to complicate the process. Knowing that we are guilty, we begin down a destructive path of self-criticism, self-judging, self-accusing, self-condemning, self-blaming, self-loathing, and self-hating. This process is a form of self-wounding that leads to confusion, fatigue, headaches, hopelessness, depression, suicide and possibly death.

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 it is described in this way, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but wordly sorrow brings death.” Judas is an example of how guilt works. In Matthew 27:3-5, it says, “When Judas, who had betrayed
him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse”….. “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself”. Judas could not forgive himself and his way of dealing with his wordly sorrow was to punish himself by taking his own life. This is the extreme result of guilt, but even in less extreme forms, guilt still leads to spiritual death and a separation from God. Guilt is a form of unbelief that says “The forgiveness of the Cross does not apply to me.” In a distorted prideful way, guilt leads the person into a process of self-justification through self-punishment.

Godly sorrow is the conviction that I need to get on my knees and confess to God my sin and inadequacy. In 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The problem is that guilt makes us believe that we are not purified and not forgiven. After confession, many people revert back to guilt and function out of the repetitive cycle of self-criticism, self-hatred and self-punishment. But, God’s plan is better. He wants us to be free of the pain and hurtful feelings so that we will sin no more. His solution is to empower us so that we will repent and change and live a more holy life. Receiving the forgiveness of the Cross is the key to living a victorious life.

How does one overcome guilt? First, be aware of how the words of guilt create a self-imposed prison. Second, work through a prayer of self-forgiveness and lay down all the self-destructive words. Third, invite Jesus into the dark place where you have been hiding and ask Him to lead you out. Fourth, accept the truth of the forgiveness of the Cross of Jesus Christ and claim the benefits of freedom for yourself. This is God’s plan for you, as it says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Retrieved from: Dr Grant Mullen’s Article Archive
October 20, 2007


Self-Pity, further thoughts…

How does self-pity differ from the factual statement of pain and the cry to God?
Do people who can’t hear God no matter how much they want to have self-pity standing in the way so all they can hear is themselves and their own pain?
There are the ones who are “obviously” in self-pity because they are continuously expressing “woe is me” in one way or another. Their whole demeanour is one of “woe-is-me”, even the way they talk is very whiny. This is off-putting to others. Such people may have few friends, or if they do they may be suffering in a similar way.
There are others whose self-pity is not so obvious. The clue seems to be that like the “woe-is-me” people, they keep coming back to the same things and going over the same ground, like a merry-go-round that never stops for them to get off.
With either group deflection into self-pity happens often and quickly. It seems to be a protection of some sort. Self-pity has a genuine core of real and true pain but it also seems to have a blame element that shows them as the victims and everyone else as the victimiser. This self-pity seems to have a power to keep the person focused on themselves and on their pain. Sometimes it is very cleverly couched in such a way as to keep the true identity hidden. If self-pity is exposed as self-pity then the person is forced to face it and do something — make a choice to deal with it (whatever that means) or to remain in it and stop wasting the time of counsellors, friends, prayer team, etc.
How does one face and deal with self-pity? Leanne Payne’s “Restoring the Christian Soul”, Part 1 addresses this in part by identifying self-pity as a manifestation of self-hatred (and self-hatred as a manifestation of pride).
Another way to face it is to keep on acknowledging it and “putting it aside” while address the real issue. Initially, this will be next to impossible but with the help of trusted friends and counsellors, it can happen. As the healing progresses, the roots of the self-pity are slowly removed. As God brings his truth into the wounds where self-pity has been rooted its reason for existence is removed. Where there are demons attached to the self-pity they lose their right to remain and must leave (of their volition or be sent packing). Change should become obvious to the person and especially to others. If it doesn’t then need to investigate what is going on. Is there a lurking demon that needs to be dealt with? Is there some hidden sin? Vow? Judgement? Something? God knows and can reveal it.
If the person is only used to looking at their pain they may need help to turn their eyes to Jesus and fix them there and so learn new habits, new habits that are God-focused not self-focused.