How to Conquer Shame and Guilt
Exchange Guilt and Shame for the Assurance of Who You Are in Christ
Understanding Guilt Versus Shame
Shame is different from guilt. You could experience feelings of guilt at times when you get the urge to do things that you believe are wrong, or you may have done something that has gone again your moral compass. These are examples of healthy guilt which keeps you on an acceptable path.
There are times, however, because of perfectionist tendencies and people-pleasing behaviors, you are unable to achieve the standards that you set yourself, and so you are plagued with guilt. This type of guilt could be considered unhealthy.
Shame is even worse, it is the feeling that there is something intrinsically wrong with you, that you are inadequate, undeserving, unworthy and unimportant. For example, many people who have experienced severe abuse and trauma, feel deep shame even though they are the victims of wrongdoing.
Shame researcher, Dr Brené Brown, explains there is the need for us to confront our shame head-on. In the YouTube video below, she defines shame as, "The intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging" What is more, shame cuts at the very heart of your perception of who you are in Christ Jesus as a believer.
A sense unworthiness leads to feelings that God could never love you. So how can you break the cycle of guilt and shame?Jesus took our guilt and shame so we can be free. Therefore a great place to start is to meditate on this verse:
" But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole" (Isaiah 53: 5, AMP).
Shame is Deadly - Brené Brown
Take Steps to Conquer Guilt and Shame
We live in a fallen world, and some of us grew up in dysfunctional families that might have been neglectful, abusive, controlling or enmeshed. So your childhood experiences, along with other factors in your life, could set you up to live under a cloud of guilt and shame.
But you don't have to continue to live that way for there is a way out of this bondage. Jesus Christ, through his sacrificial death on the Cross, sets captives free!
When I first read "Breaking the Bondage of Legalism" I felt such a deep relief. I was a Christian for many years, yet for the most part, I lived with a sense of guilt and shame. I was constantly reviewing in my mind what I did wrong or what I was supposed to do and did not do. This led to a series of panic attacks.
Through Christian author, Neil T. Anderson's books, I came to understand my position in Christ and I now have a deep sense that I am accepted, secure and significant in Christ instead of constant feelings of guilt and shame. I believe that if you struggle with guilt and shame you can get help from this book.
Here are steps you can take to start the journey to freedom from guilt and shame through Christ Jesus. This is not a quick fix, this is learning that God's Word is truth and standing on it, no matter how you feel.
Break the Bonds of Legalism and Overcome Guilt and Shame
The authors use stories of people who experienced extreme legalism in their religious backgrounds that led to intense guilt and shame. I identified with many of the stories but through the book, I found out that it is the heritage of believers to walk in grace and a knowledge of who we are in Christ. As a result, the panic of guilt and shame that I experienced for years was replaced with a sense of true acceptance of God.
1. Meditate on the Truth of God's Word
Having accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, constantly remind yourself of what God's Word says about you as a believer. You could start to read and meditate on the scriptures quoted later in this hub. According to John 6:63, God's words are spirit and life and so as you meditate on his them daily change will come.
It is through God's Word that you are able to overcome the plans of Satan laced with his lies and condemnation. It is also through the Word of God that you are transformed to walk rightly. You can't do it through self-discipline, it will only take place as you meditate God's Word and allow the Holy Spirit work in and through you.
2. Confess Sins and Receive God's Forgiveness
Where you have sinned, you will need to repent. Take 1 John 1 :9 to heart where the verse clearly states, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, NIV),
Having confessed your sin(s), know that God did just what he said. You are justified; just as you never sinned. It couldn't be God bringing on feelings of shame and guilt when he has already forgiven you. So hold on to 1 John 1:9, and confess (speak) it boldly when feelings of guilt and shame try to overcome you.
3. Use God's Truth to Counter Memories
Certain events could set off memories that trigger deep feelings of shame. For example, a wedding could remind you of your own marriage and how it ended in a divorce leading to a sense of guilt and shame.
In such cases, use God's Word to move against the lies of Satan. This can be difficult, but you will need to be decisive and consistent. Ask God for the grace you need stand against the onslaught of the evil one. There are also things that you can do, for example, keeping specific Scriptures verses written on cards for easy access to read aloud to counteract feelings of shame.
4. Believe God's Word Despite Feelings
As a believer, you walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), So when feelings of guilt and shame come, don't believe your feelings, believe God's Word instead. For example, believe God's truth that says, " So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1, NLT). Know that you are God's precious child so don't allow the enemy to rob you of your peace of mind.
5. Monitor Internal Dialogue
Watch your self-talk, that is, the things you are telling yourself. The things you are telling yourself are the things you believe. You will need to consistently fill your mind with the Word of God. As you renew your mind (Romans 12:2), this leads to a more accurate self-talk based on the Word of God which enables you to find true acceptance.
Guilt and Shame Poll
How often do you feel a sense of guilt and shame?
Pursue a Path Free of Guilt and Shame
Bible Quotes to help You Overcome Guilt and Shame
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).
- So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1, NLT).
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, NIV).
- Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, NKJ).
- To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:5, NIV).
- Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:22, NLT).
- As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:23, NASB).
- Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Phil. 3:13, NIV).
- Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1, NKJ)
Allow God's Grace to Enfold You
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to take my guilt and shame. Today, I confess my sins and I turn from them. Thank you, Father, for forgiving me and setting me free from bondage.
I move forth with confidence in you that you will guide and give me the power to walk in your precepts. I stand in my position of righteousness in Christ Jesus and walk victoriously in his strength alone. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen
Move Forward with New Confidence in Christ
Satan is a liar and he will do everything he can to rob you of your peace of mind. He wants to take away your inheritance that Jesus paid for on the Cross. The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, gives you peace with God, peace with others and with yourself. He took the anguish of guilt and shame.
Continue to meditate on God's Word, and specifically on what his Word says about who you are in Christ Jesus; that you are a child of God, set apart, and lavishly loved. Then move from guilt and shame with deep thankfulness and joy because of the knowledge of who you are in Christ.