Overcoming False Guilt
My biggest enemy to freedom is me. Being a person who sees things in great detail is a blessing and a curse. It gives me a high degree of accuracy in many situations. But more often than not, it turns inward. It is the log and the speck in reverse, producing a kind of continual feeling of guilt that is frequently not a picture of how things truly are.
Matthew 7:3-5 details Jesus’ words about the person who is able to be critical of a tiny speck in others, but excuse a log in his own eye. I know many people like that. They see themselves with rose colored glasses, excusing many wrong behaviors but examining
others with a magnifying glass to try to find anything wrong. Jesus needed to speak to that ugly way of living.
For me, it is the opposite of that. I try to hold myself to a higher standard—which is good and bad. It is good in that I usually walk with integrity and that makes it easier for people around me to trust me and connect in positive ways. It is bad in terms of heaviness. I always struggle with a deeper sense of guilt. I never measure up in my own eyes.
That last statement is the problem. In my own eyes. As human beings, we were not designed to live from that point of view. It is God’s eyes that matter. And, the people around us can see us from a more unbiased perspective than we can see ourselves.
That is not what our culture believes. It believes that the only person who knows a person is himself. Those who believe that they know themselves better than others do are typically seeing their own heart motives. They give themselves the benefit of the doubt for having good intentions. Rose colored glasses. Never mind that their behavior has injured many. They had good intentions!
Almost everyone lives on one of the two sides of the log and speck principle. Some have rose colored glasses for themselves—excuse almost everything and don’t have a healthy level of guilt. Some live in self hatred—pick apart every little thing. It is hard to live in a place of true honesty. That is, it is hard unless you are hearing from God and trusting those with a godly perspective.
Because I am more analytical, I instinctively pick myself apart. Left to myself, guilt piles up daily. Deep down inside, I believe that if I could analyze a little better and press a little deeper, I would make myself better. That’s a huge mistake. I cannot make myself better.
The heaviness of self examination drives me to a place of darkness that is not good for me or anyone. When I am in the grip of that darkness, I slash others with my analytics. I also feel the crushing weight of failure and a drive to do better. I try really hard for a season—generally ending somewhere around disappointment and then hopelessness. Not a good life. Not a blessing to those around me!
The place of freedom from this heaviness and guilt is not more analytics. My greatest strength is my greatest weakness. My place of freedom is to stop analyzing and to listen. Wait. Listen. Hang out. Enjoy life. I suppose this lifestyle could take me into a place of self indulgence. Some go there but that is not a common thing for me. I am driven to do the right thing.
Instead, I need more time to wait on God and to listen. When I press, the outcomes are not good. When I have a listening ear that hears God’s perspective, life is much better. Not everything that everyone says is God. If I become too attentive to people’s words, I live the yoyo life of the analytic, constantly trying to decipher if something is true and if it applies to me.
God’s Spirit does bear witness with our spirit (Rom. 8:16). If we learn to wait, and have a listening ear, we can tell the difference between random stuff and the voice of God. Sometimes, it is an “Ouch. I needed to hear that.” But sometimes, it is a “Well done.” I need to hear that too! Sometimes, God’s voice actually fits my analytical brain and I “see” things or “know” things that I did not know before. Most of the time, that “seeing” is the voice of God, though occasionally self creeps into that spot. I am learning the difference between when it is me and when it is God.
Self is heavy and depressing. Or exhilarating and intoxicating. Self pushes the extremes in a way that is consumed with itself. The voice of God is exhilarating, but in a way that has a quality of self control about it. In a way that keeps God in perspective, and where self is not allowed to run to its extreme places.
There is a difference between the “voice” that is of self and the voice that is truly God speaking to us. There is also a difference between the voice of God speaking through others and the voice inside of ourselves that is triggered by others. Too often, others trigger us in a way that we rampage toward a response. Even when the response seems like integrity, if a response is driven by self, the outcome will be either the pride of perfectionism or the desperation of disappointment.
Knowing the difference between the self voice and God’s voice is the first step to overcoming overactive guilt. Quieting the rampage of self and focusing on the God voice is life. It is not easy, but the outcomes are amazing! I hate to admit that I still live way too much in the self life. It is so easy for me to go there. But I have also seen the outcomes of a lifestyle of hearing the voice of God.
The fight of staying focused on God and His voice is worth it! Put down the analysis of self and the false guilt that it brings. Wait for God to speak. It is freedom!