Guilt may hang on because of specific, harmful acts we have committed against others. Earlier in this series, I noted that guilt can be a gift. In this case, guilt reminds us how capable we are of sinning against God – and hurting others. This memory can serve as a gateway to never acting out in such ways again. Those who forget the pain they cause are more likely to repeat hurting others. This remembrance, then, is a kind of grace – or gift from God.
There are a handful of harmful acts I have committed against others that I will never forget. I shared a few months ago how I tossed a corn dog at another boy during high school. Watching his face and clothing get splattered with ketchup shocked me. What I thought might be funny became a personal memory that has lingered with me for life. As a teenager, I also inappropriately touched several others. I have confessed my sin to all those that I can. I forgive myself for these things, but I still remember each sin with godly sorrow. This sorrow has shaped a desire never to hurt another person.
Remembrance can resurface as true guilt. There is a thin line between these two emotions – just as there is a thin line between false guilt and legitimate conviction. When remembrance causes you pain, remember that Christ’s blood covers your sin – and then say a prayer for the person you hurt. It may be appropriate to offer restitution or seek healing between you and the person you hurt. In other cases, it may be more harmful than healing – in such cases, you should refrain from contact.
There is freedom from guilt when we can receive the grace of remembrance. I can thank God for the memory of my sin against others, because it serves as a permanent boundary marker to never pass that way again. Let the boundary marker of remembrance not overwhelm you with shame: instead, praise God that He forgives, that He heals those we have hurt; and that He has set us “free.”
Click Part 9 to complete this series.
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