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Giving Up Guilt and Shame

- by Joyce Meyer 5 MIN READ

For many years, I lived with an almost constant feeling of guilt and shame. It was mainly caused by the sexual abuse I experienced throughout my childhood by my father. And I grew up believing, there has to be something wrong with me for my father to want to do that to me.

The abuse was horrific and caused deep feelings of shame that were toxic in my soul. I wasn’t just ashamed of what I’d done or what had been done to me...I was ashamed of myself. And it poisoned everything else in my life.

It was a long time before I realized that most of the problems I had—the personality issues and relationship problems—were rooted in the fact that I didn’t like myself. And when you don’t like yourself, it’s very difficult to get along with anyone else.

I truly wanted to be a kind, loving person. But the harder I tried, the more mistakes I made and the worse I felt about myself. When I finally became so desperate to change that I was willing to do whatever it took to be free of the misery I was living in, God spoke to my heart and said, “Joyce, you can’t love anybody else because you don’t love yourself.”

This was a radically life-changing revelation for me! At first, it didn’t seem right to love—or even like—myself. But as I grew in my relationship with Christ and learned to trust His awesome love for me, the more I could see myself the way He sees me.

I remember one day when I was on a guilt trip because of something I had done, and I went to the store to run an errand. I don’t remember now what had happened, but I do remember feeling bad about myself and just being “down” mentally, emotionally and even physically, in my posture and facial expression.

As I slowly walked toward the store, God spoke to my heart and said, “When do you plan to get over this?” I thought, Oh, probably two or three days. He asked, “How are you going to get over this?” And I responded, Well, I’m going to receive the sacrifice You made for me when You died on the cross.

Then He said, “If that sacrifice is going to be good in two or three days, why isn’t it good enough now?”

In that moment, I realized that I felt like I needed to pay for my mistakes— my sin—even though Jesus had done everything that was needed for me to be forgiven.

It’s so important to understand that God wants us to simply accept His gift of unconditional love and forgiveness, because we can’t pay for our sin no matter how many religious rules we follow or good things we do. And the truth is, we aren’t more “holy” if we feel bad about ourselves when we do something wrong.

Now, nobody is perfect, but as believers in Christ who are truly born again, our identity in Christ is not “guilty, shameful sinner.” The Bible says we have become the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NIV). And there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NIV).

I’m not saying that we should be haughty Christians with arrogant attitudes. There’s a big difference between knowing who you are in Christ and who you are in yourself.

When we make mistakes, we should be sorry and sincerely repent. We should confess our sin, take responsibility for our poor choices, turn away from wrongdoing and go in the right direction. And we need to trust that God removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west... (Psalm 103:12 NIV ).

I know it’s not easy; it took me years to get to the point where I stopped feeling guilty all the time. But if you’ll keep pressing into your relationship with God each day and refuse to waste another moment living in guilt and shame, you will get your breakthrough!

I can honestly say that I almost never feel guilty now. It’s not because I never do anything wrong, but because my heart is right with God through my relationship with Christ. I know He loves me unconditionally, and I can immediately ask Him to forgive me and receive His forgiveness.

The process happened little by little as I started speaking personalized confessions based on scriptures that declare who I am in Christ. Things like: “God loves me and I am totally forgiven of my sins!” and “I am right with God because of what Jesus has done for me.” (See John 3:16-17 NIV; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 NIV.)

I want to encourage you to study God’s Word and meditate on verses that show you who you are in Christ. Replace the negative, guilty, shameful lies with the truth, and celebrate your progress in your journey with Jesus, so you won’t just focus on how far you have to go. Thank Him for working in your heart and bringing you little by little from pain and insecurity to total freedom from guilt and shame.

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