How many years has it been, 20-30-40 or more? Years later, are there still times that you wake up thinking about what you did or didn’t do and feel guilty? Oh, but how to get over guilt? Can you let it go, never to be thought of again?
Guilt can be real or perceived. Maybe you wronged someone, and you have never made amends for it. Or maybe they think you wronged them, and you still feel guilty for it. Whatever the reason or the circumstances, there are ways to get over the guilt.
Guilt will eat away at you year after year and leave an empty pit in your stomach. To acknowledge guilt is a necessary step to overcoming it. Make amends with yourself and the party you wronged. It is all about forgiveness.
When we forgive, it is not to let go of the other person. No forgiveness is for us so that we can move on. It is so we can let it go and rise above the guilt.
You can go days, months, or even years without thinking about the guilt, and then something will trigger it. An object, a memory, or another person will say something that reminds us. And for days, that guilt will plague you every waking moment.
Just Set Guilt Aside
- Remind yourself that it was a long time ago-a reminder like this will only put off the need to work through the issues, but it will set the guilt aside until the next trigger comes along.
- Blame the other person-after all; you didn’t do anything even though they think you did. Again blaming will put off the hard work you need to do to heal.
- Justification-if they didn’t do so and so, then I wouldn’t have said what I did. Justifying your actions stops the pain for a very short time but sets a path for bitterness.
Is it OK to set the guilt aside? Or is it better to work through it even though it brings back the pain? These things will work for a while, but the guilt will creep back into your life. So why not look at the feelings and find a way to work through it?
Why do you feel guilty?
Maybe it serves a purpose for you. Studies have shown that guilt and shame activate the brain’s reward system. To feel guilty helps you work harder and be more honest. But at the same time, it erodes your health. So enough of this, or I will go on and on about the benefits of unhealthy guilt, so let’s move on to how to get over guilt.
How To Get Over Guilt
Forgiveness of self and others is the one ultimate step to releasing the guilt. There are a few things you can do to reach the ultimate step of forgiveness.
- Acknowledge the guilt-your first step is to accept that you feel guilty and stop fighting it. You either did something, or someone perceives that you did it. The situation is real, and to acknowledge it is moving forward.
- Look at yourself-are you getting some satisfaction from your guilt? Is it fueling your low self-esteem or poor self-worth? As long as you hang onto it, you don’t have to work through other issues.
- Accept it-You feel guilty because you did something wrong or someone thinks you did. Hanging onto it is holding a grudge against yourself or the other person.
- Ask for forgiveness-Ask the other person to forgive you. Even if you didn’t do what they believe, it is still liberating to accept what they think you did and step up to the plate. Be the bigger person and ask. If they do not want to talk to you, at least you have done the right thing. Forgiveness is the biggest and most difficult step.
Forgiveness For Self And Others
When you forgive yourself or another, you are lifting your guilt up for inspection. It is the biggest secret to healing.
Forgiveness is a conscious effort to let go of feelings of wrath and resentment directed at another person or group. Even if that person does not deserve your forgiveness or you did not wrong them.
Forgiveness does not mean you have to forget and allow it to happen again; it is merely letting go and allowing yourself to heal.
How to forgive the guilt
It all sounds so easy but to forgive is a continual process. It is something that is a work in progress. Why? Because our minds remember, and when the mind feels the memory, we dredge it all up again. We dwell on the problem and negate all forgiveness again and again. But each time you forgive the same situation over and over, you are on the road to get rid of guilt.
It’s Not Easy
You are right; it is not easy. When we make mistakes or offend another, our innate reaction is pride. When that ugly pride rears its head, we begin to believe we did nothing wrong.
The situation did happen. We all see it differently, so maybe in their mind, you did do wrong, whether it is perceived or actually does not matter when it comes to forgiveness and becoming a better person.
But I Did Forgive
Yes, I do believe you, but as I mentioned earlier, forgiveness is a continuous process. Does an alcoholic stop drinking for one day and never have to deal with it again. No, it too is a continuous process day in and day out.
Each time the guilt arises, you will need to work through each of the steps above. Acknowledge it, accept it, and ask for forgiveness until the guilt begins to fade, and you have truly forgiven yourself.
My Top Suggestion to overcome guilt
I did not write this article to preach, but the Word of God is a major part of my life. I want to share it with those of you who also believe. It helps to have reminders for both you and me.
I do try hard not to shove God down your throats. I do not believe people find Jesus this way. I believe God ad the Holy Spirit will pull his people, and we are all his people, in when he is ready. But there are times when the scripture is so profound that it is the best answer for believers and non-believers alike. This is one of those times.
Jesus Forgave You
God gave his only Son that you may be forgiven of your sins, and yes, guilt is a sin. Why because God loves you and wants you to love yourself and others. Guilt gets in the way of that love.
When you understand that God did this for you, it is easier to forgive yourself and others. It is like having a best friend to talk to—the one who tells you the truth and not what you want to hear.
1 John 4:9-10
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
You Are Expected To Forgive Yourself And Others
God wants to forgive us, and he has paid the ultimate price for our sins. But at the same time, he knows that we are our own worst enemies there, for he insists that we forgive ourselves and others so he may forgive us.
It isn’t a small thing. God knew we would have trouble with forgiveness, so he gave us instructions on its importance.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
He Wants The Best For You
God is a good God and wants only the best for each one of us. Therefore he lets, you know that he has a plan for you and is ready to carry this out when you come to him with forgiveness in your heart.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.…
You can still use forgiveness to overcome guilt for those who do not believe in God or a higher power. But for those who believe, it is much easier when you know how much is riding on your unforgiveness.
Either way, to hold onto guilt and allow it to eat away at you is harming yourself. Your heart will become more bitter with each passing year that you hang onto the guilt.
Step up to the plate and be the better person by asking for forgiveness and, in turn, forgiving you and the other person.
It is liberating and will lighten the burdens you carry. Just do it over and over again until full forgiveness shines in your heart and the guilt begins to fade into nothing.