I just finished reading Look at It This Way: Straightforward Wisdom to Put Life in Perspective by Jan Silvious and her chapter entitled, “Feeling Guilty Doesn’t Mean You Are”, was helpful in determining how to deal with guilt properly.
What To Do If You Feel Guilty
Jan gave us a way to identify whether the guilt we feel is bad guilt (this can be when someone is trying to make you feel guilty when you’re not) or good guilt (that comes from something you’ve actually done).
Below is the tool she recommended to help you identify whether you are dealing with good or bad guilt:
“When these feelings come, ask yourself this question: ‘Have I actually done something wrong?’
Every time the guilty feelings return, ask yourself again: ‘Have I actually done something wrong?’
Be honest. Your grid will never change until you honestly evaluate why you feel what you feel and do what you do.
If you can answer no, then you can move on with freedom. But if you answer yes, you need to make right what you have done wrong.”
When It is Good Guilt
“Here’s the deal. God created us to feel guilt when we do something wrong, so that we would be prompted to do something about it. So if you ask yourself whether you’ve done something wrong and the answer is, ‘Yes, I have,’ then the guilt you are feeling is good guilt.
Good guilt is a sign that we have done something wrong and need forgiveness–forgiveness from God and from those we’ve wronged. When we receive forgiveness, our guilt is lifted and we can go on in freedom. This truth is repeated over and over again in Scripture.”
We all deal with good and bad guilt. If it is bad guilt because someone is trying to make you feel guilty, kindly acknowledge their feelings and make a choice to let their words and the guilt they carry towards you roll off your back. Jan reminds us we can’t control what other say but we can choose how we respond to others.
If it is good guilt because you have done something wrong, admit it, deal with it properly and move on. God desires you to be in a right relationship with Him and others.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
~ 1 John 1:9