Tag Archives: forgiven

Forgiven: How Guilt Can Block God’s Forgiveness

Forgiven, that’s what we all want: to be forgiven…by God, by others, by ourselves. The following is an excerpt from by latest book: Starting Over…finding God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself.

Meet Steveforgiven

Let me tell you about Steve. Steve has a drinking problem, but he never saw it coming. He got started drinking heavily in college with his buddies. He thought after college that things would change, but he found that old habits die hard. Steve realized that he didn’t have the self-control he thought he had.

How would your life change if you knew that you were completely forgiven and accepted unconditionally?

When Steve’s friends invited him to the bar, he always said yes. And when they encouraged him to have one more, he never said no. After the third drink he lost count. He knew it wasn’t right but thought, “Hey, I’m not hurting anyone.” He was just having a good time.

In his honest moments, Steve knew that he was hurting someone. He was hurting himself because his drinking hurt his health. It hurt his relationships. It hurt his job performance. It also hurt his relationship with God.

Steve’s excessive drinking made him feel guilty. But things had gotten out of control, and he didn’t know how to get back on track. Like I said: he never planned his life to be this way. One thing just led to another.

When God is the Problem

Interestingly enough, Steve’s faith in God was actually a part of the problem. He felt so ashamed of his failure that he drank more trying to cover his guilt. It was a vicious cycle. The more he drank the guiltier he felt. The guiltier he felt the more he drank. He never dreamed of being forgiven.

After a while, Steve stopped feeling guilty. He grew numb. He just accepted that he was a drinker and resigned himself to a life without God. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was better than feeling guilty all the time.

Steve’s story describes many people I’ve talked to over the years. Just change the name, and the addiction, and Steve might be someone you know. Steve might even be you. Instead of a drinking problem it might be a problem with food, pornography, gambling, shopping, anger, or any number of things.

Guilt: The Roadblock to Being Forgiven

What often keeps us from getting the help we need is guilt. We are so ashamed of what we’ve done that we push God away, assuming he wants nothing to do with us. But in doing that, we push away our greatest help.

What if Steve could live a life free from guilt? How do you think Steve’s life would change if he knew that he was completely forgiven, and God accepted him unconditionally, just the way he was… warts, addiction, and all?

More importantly, how would your life change if you knew that you were completely forgiven and accepted unconditionally?

I’m not talking about being free from all guilt. Some guilt is good…I’m talking about the false guilt that lingers and often turns to shame. I’m talking about the feeling that weighs on you and makes you want to avoid anything remotely associated with God, because you are convinced of his disgust for you.

True guilt has a short shelf life, that is: once guilt serves its purpose in getting you to see your wrong, it starts to spoil. It’s like soured milk: guilt turns from being helpful to being hurtful. But many people keep drinking the “sour milk” of guilt thinking it’s the right thing to do… even the godly thing to do. They just assume that all guilt is from God and so they embrace it. Big mistake.

The truth is that God wants you to move from guilt to grace as quickly as possible. Put your past behind you and start building your new regret-free life. Live forgiven. [adapted from chapter nine from Starting Over: The Problem of Guilt.]

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How to BE Forgiven – Part Two: Express Sorrow

I’m talking about how to be forgiven or how to offer an effective apology. Track back to read about the first step, admit the offense.

How to be forgiven: Express Sorrow

How to Be Forgiven: Express Sorrow

How to Be Forgiven: Express Sorrow

Imagine I’ve offended you deeply and I admitted it. What do you want to hear from me next? I think you want me to show some remorse…to express sorrow for what I’ve done. You want to know that I feel bad about it.

Sorrow isn’t just saying “I’m sorry”. We see people make poor apologies all the time in the media…typically athletes and politicians. They’ll do something stupid and then they’ll call a press conference and say…

I’d like to offer an apology for (insert stupid thing here). I understand that some people are upset that I did this. It was never my intention to offend anyone but if anyone was offended then I’m sorry.   Read about Rush Limbaugh’s apology

But what’s wrong with that apology?  There is no admission of guilt. They are sorry that people got mad. It’s like they are saying, “If you are so foolish to be mad about what I did, then I’m sorry for you”. But they don’t have any sense of doing wrong.

How to be forgive: It’s About Empathy

The key to expressing sorrow is that you express it in terms of the person you offended. There are many things to be sorry for that have nothing to do with the person you offended. I might be sorry that I got caught. Sorry for the consequences. Sorry for my looking bad. Sorry that you are mad. Sorry that you think less of me. But if I’m not sorry for the hurt I’ve caused you then it’s not the sorrow you expect from me.

The kind of sorrow that you want to hear is that I feel YOUR pain…that I understand how YOU must feel. You want to know that I spent time thinking about how I hurt you. That’s called empathy. So my apology needs to be rooted in your feelings. I need to carefully choose words that convey to you that I understand the impact of my actions.

For example it would help to say something like this;

I’ve been thinking about what I did and how it affected you. If someone did to me what I did to you this is how I would feel. I’d feel disrespected and abandoned. I’d feel taken for granted and I’d want to shut them out of my life. So I just want you to know that I get that and I appreciate any hard feelings you might have toward me. They are totally justified.

Notice here that I didn’t tell you how you feel. No one likes to be told how they feel because I don’t really know how you feel. What I said was, this is how I would feel if I was in your shoes. If what I say matches how you feel then your trust for me grows. You will say to yourself, “Amazing. He actually gets it. I finally feel understood. Maybe there is hope after all.”

Question: What makes it so hard to express true sorrow? Leave your comment below.

This post is adapted from the book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.

Related Posts:

  • How to BE Forgiven – Part One: Admit (readingremy.com)
  • Rush Limbaugh Apology: Four Keys to a Good Apology
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