“A guilty conscience needs no accuser.” Proverb

Nobody is perfect. Everyone messes up. So why is it so hard to forgive ourselves sometimes?

Guilt can be positive if it acts as a catalyst for change. Seeking to make amends, having genuine remorse can all be stepping-stones to healing and forgiveness. The process of resolution diminishes guilt as others reaffirm their acceptance of us and our apology. You can learn from your mistakes and move on.

But if you don’t forgive yourself then you are heading for misery. Guilt will eat away at your mind, body and soul. And the grater the regret, the more you will try to overcompensate or withdraw completely.

When I was in the grip of addiction, it was shame that kept me there. I was so embarrassed that drink controlled me. I was horrified at the things that I did to myself and others. So I drink even more and so the cycle of shame continued. As my alcoholism passed the point of no-return, I could no longer bear my guilt. I felt so worthless and undeserving. It was more than self-pity. My life was such a mess, and I genuinely thought it was my fault.

The chains of guilt needed to be broken in my life, but first I had to decide that I deserved to be free. Just like the words of the serenity prayer, I learned to accept the things I couldn’t change and found courage to change the things I could. After releasing those things over which I had no power, I could then focus on releasing myself.

It didn’t come naturally and it didn’t take much for my guilty conscience to raise itself. When it did I had a choice to make – use the emotional energy to beat myself up all over again or forgive and restore.

“Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve; and mercy is not getting something that you do deserve.” ~ Francis Bacon

My faith showed me the path to forgiveness through grace and mercy. It was the way to break the chains of shame once and for all.

There are many things that I wish I hadn’t done or should have done.  But today I have the freedom of forgiveness. The freedom to depart from the past and to  welcome the future.

Guilty? Not any more.

Thank you to Jane Hinchcliffe for linking my blog to her wonderful post ‘Forgiveness sets you free.’

Top image thanks to Rebecca N×10
                                    Bottom image thanks to Katie Daisy

58 thoughts on “Guilty.

  1. Pingback: Guilty as charged … or forgiven and free « Simply Me Just Be

  2. Hi Carolyn. I love this one too, ‘” Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve; and mercy is not getting something that you do deserve. ‘ Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve; and mercy is not getting something that you do deserve.”
    This is a wonderful post and forgiveness is very important.
    We all make mistakes and need to forgive ourselves, whether it is drinking to much, using drugs or even as Cathy mentions something about our children.

    What i have found that really helps me, is to remember that God and Jesus love me and if I don’t love and forgive myself I am actually letting them down.
    I don’t know about you, but the last thing that I don’t to do is disappoint my heavenly father. This thought and truth helps me to forgive myself with the wrongs that I do and have done.
    Thanks again for sharing and your honesty. it is priceless.

  3. Great post with insightful, inspiring thoughts! I love the Francis Bacon quote.

    After a suicide attempt, my kids were taken away, and I suffered a serious brain injury. I felt tremendous shame.

    In the years of my recovery, I learned that no one can make me feel shame unless I choose to accept it. I found that if I talked about everything openly, it took away the possibility of any shame. I refuse to feel shame. I extend compassion and forgiveness to myself. I was doing the best I could with who I was at the time. This was the first essential step in healing emotionally and physically.

    • What an inspirational story Debbie. Thank you for sharing with such honesty. I love how you say that talking openly took away the possibility of shame. That is the way to heal. Get it out, deal with it and let it go. I am so glad you are on that healing path!

  4. I love, love love this one, Carolyn. You’re closing lines are wonderful, “The freedom to depart from the past and to welcome the future. Guilty? Not any more.”
    And this part, “It didn’t come naturally and it didn’t take much for my guilty conscience to raise itself. When it did I had a choice to make – use the emotional energy to beat myself up all over again or forgive and restore.” Boy could I relate to “it didn’t come naturally…” for me, either, and you’re so right – it takes so much emotional energy. Thanks for another wonderful post, Carolyn!

    • Self forgiveness doesn’t come naturally to many of us, if we feel we still have to pay for what we have done, or failed to do. But so many times there is nothing actually owed, it is simply our perception. Thanks for your great comments!

  5. Indeed, what would we do without grace and mercy! Self-forgiveness is the toughest challenge but the key to freedom. I love how you write so transparently, Carolyn, from that place of freedom. I can sense your joy and confidence, on the other side of the guilt and shame.
    I’m so glad you are writing articles like this, in a spirit of love! THANKS!

  6. What a great, empowering post, Carolyn! It is all so true. You certainly have to work on yourself to get to a place of forgiveness and change. Not easy, but worth it! I have always loved the descriptions of grace and mercy ~ it keeps things in a real perspective of what our lives would be like without them ~ from our Savior and each other. Thanks again, for another wonderful post!

  7. It’s such a complicated subject, guilt. Sometimes you may not even be aware that’s what your feeling, because rationally you have nothing to feel guilty about, and it disguises itself as other emotions and attitudes. But I think it’s always a useful discussion to have, and I like the way you discuss these matters on your blog, Carolyn 🙂

  8. God loves us so much that He forgives us and never reminds us f anything that we have ever done. Why do we keep reminding ourselves, right? I think that we sometimes love to have a pity-party and don’t realize how “dangerous” it actually is because it sucks us deeper and deeper into that guilty conscious.

  9. I used to feel guilty and condemned all the time. It wasn’t until I read the verse there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…….Bible and really let it sink in that I started to feel free.

  10. Great post. I have had many changes in my life lately and I am learning to let it go and forgive myself so that I can have a better life. Thank you for the beautiful reminder !!

  11. HI Caroline,

    Love this one. Parents also feel guilt when their children become addicted. I blamed myself for a long time, and spent a lot of time reviewing the past and trying to decide what I could have changed. What helped me was attending Al-Anon. As I looked around the group of parents, I realized there were so really amazing people in that room, and their children had become addicted as well. I now realize I did the best I could and even if I had changed certain things, who know what the outcome would have been. Thanks for another insightful article.

    • I’m so glad you were able to find the support of others Cathy and realised that you did the best you could. Your story as a parent of a addict is so inspirational and provides so much encouragement to others who are in the same awful situation. Thank you for sharing.

  12. LOVE this post! When I was able to let guilt be simply a reminder that I had done something wrong and needed to make a change, it became less a way to beat myself up and more a great catalyst!

  13. Hi Carolyn, I also found that faith was the catalyst for me being able to forgive myself for having suffered from depression and the way it had affected the people I loved most. It really does set you free! Thank you again for linking me…. Jane x

    • Depression is such an isolating illness but it really does impact everyone around you. I’m so glad that your faith helped you to forgive yourself. No-one has control of when illness will strike, whether it is physical or mental and you deserve to be set free from any guilt! And thank you for sharing my post too Jane 🙂

  14. Carolyn, You ALWAYS hit the nail on the head 🙂 I have been trying to explain this to a friend who really deserves to set herself free, and I am battling (Perhaps I am just too close to the situation), and I think that You have expained it perfectly, where I could not. I can’t wait to share this post with her because she needs this more than she knows. An amazing woman who feels too bad about the mistakes she has made in life and she is not able to forgive herself, so yes, exactly as You have stated here, the mistakes are re-lived, and the pain is just as bad, if not worse, and in all honesty, if the freedom of forgiveness won’t set her free until she is able to forgive herself. I really hope I can help her work through this and with posts like this, I guess I have the support and guidence I need. Thank You for sharing, and GOOD FOR YOU!!! For forgiving Yourself, and for finding the strength in Your faith. x

    • Thank for your wonderful comments as always Christine. I do hope that your friend can realise that keeping herself in a bondage of shame and guilt about the past won’t ever bring her peace. The past can never be changed no matter how much you relive it. Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, or that it didn’t matter. It means you can accept your faults and learn from them. It means you can start to live your life as the person you were meant to be. Not the person you were back then. Your friends sounds like she’s been through a lot. Which means she has so much to offer others. I’m glad she has such a caring friend too 🙂

  15. I agree so completely with you Carolyn about the way guilt can be used as a positive to make amends and try to address things when a person has done wrong, There are times when we need to feel guilty as it motivates us to action – exactly as you said. But guilt can also suffocate people, which is doing neither them or anyone else any good. You put this so well, thanks for this excellent post. All my best, Ruth

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