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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

ūüĒ®How to break the cycle of feeling guilty

Feeling guilty has been a huge challenge for me.

For a long time, I didn’t know what to make of it. I just had this perpetual sense of “feeling bad” about everything and everyone. Like all the trouble in the world was somehow my fault. If I –¬†would¬†have done or¬†could¬†do something-¬†differently, things would not be such a mess.

I spent a large part of the last year sorting through “guilt.”

Many women I know personally and professionally, struggle with guilt as well.

Guilt over all kinds of thingsРpast, present, and future.

Guilt regarding our thoughts, our minds, our bodies, our spirits, our finances, our relationships, our parenting, our responsibilities, our care-taking, our work, our friends, our households, our routines, our schedules, our plans, our fears, our failures.

Guilt can sneak in any door, through the teeny, tiniest crack. Words said or¬†not¬†said. Mistakes made. People disappointed. Opportunities missed. Pain caused. Imperfections piled up. To-do’s left undone. Dreams derailed. Money misspent. Attention not paid. Love misunderstood.

It’s exhausting, really.

More than exhausting.

It can be degrading, defeating, depressing, even debilitating.

This kind of guilt is not a verdict received in a court of law.

Rather it’s the kind of verdict received from critical, condemning voices that say,

“You’re doing it wrong. You’re perpetually letting people down. You’ll never be enough.”

Sometimes these words come from the outside.

Most often these words come from within.

What is this guilt really about?

From my perspective, it’s an¬†overwhelming¬†sense of responsibility for¬†everyone and¬†everything. Not only is it overwhelming, it’s¬†over-extended. Meaning, I tend to feel guilty about things beyond my control.

About people and circumstances I do not have the power or permission to “fix.”


This guilt is not healthy.

Even though I’ve tried to justify it like that before.

My ego (secretly) says “feeling guilty” proves I’m a good person.

But that’s a house of cards that falls the moment I breathe on it.

Because actually…

This guilt is keeping me stuck in a cycle of self-absorption.

When I fixate on it. Harbor it. Feed it with my attention and self-loathing.

It causes me to feel shame about… who¬†I¬†am and how¬†I¬†am and what¬†I¬†am (or am not).

And frankly, that’s a whole lot of “I’s”

“Feeling guilty” is a sneaky way of avoiding the things I could¬†actually¬†take charge of.

“Feeling guilty” consumes a tremendous amount of my time and energy.

Time and energy spent spinning my wheels without going anywhere.

Time and energy that could be used to get some sh*t done.

To read a book. To talk a walk. To write. To listen to a podcast. To check on a friend. To plan my day. To pray.

There are¬†so¬†many better options than my obsession with “feeling guilty.”

Because the truth is…

Either I can do something about a situation,¬†or I can’t.

I need to think about it in a practical sense.

  • Is this situation mine to change?
  • If so, what is truly my responsibility in it?
  • What will it require?
  • Am I willing to do it?

If there is something I can do to improve things and I’m willing, I can get on with it.

If there is something I can do but I’m¬†not¬†ready, I can make my decision and own it. Rather than wallow and be wishy-washy.

If there is nothing in my realm of responsibility over the situation, I can still pray.

Whatever the case…

I can give the situation to God.

Who really is in charge (instead of me) anyway.

Guilt isn’t meant to cause remorse and¬†stop there.

How will I ever become all God created me to be if I stay stuck in the sticky, stinky, suffocating swamp of guilt?

If I am feeling bad about something that is truly mine to feel bad about, it’s meant to¬†change¬†me.

To make me turn.

Toward Jesus.

Who is always next to me.

To ask for forgiveness.

To receive His forgiveness.

To keep moving toward my best self.

And if I’m not quite ready or don’t know how to change yet?

It’s okay.

Jesus waits for me.

He never abandons me.

Because he loves me.

If I am feeling bad about something that¬†isn’t¬†mine to feel bad about, I’m wasting precious time.

Time I could be using to learn and grow and laugh and love and support people.

Time I could be using to do what’s¬†mine¬†to do in the world.

Time I could be trusting God to take care of the rest.

This is one way I’m learning to take care of myself well.

When I notice I’m feeling guilty about something, I pause.

I listen to the dialogue happening in my head.

I evaluate what my role is in the situation.

I either commit to change something or let the guilt go.

Then, I keep moving.

Is there something (or a hundred things) you’re “feeling guilty” about?

Pick one.

Run it through the questions.

Is it truly¬†your’s¬†to deal with?

Have you been carrying it too long?

If so, what action can you take to resolve it?



Keep moving.

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
2 Corinthians 7:10 The Message





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