I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that said something like “Have no regrets about your past; Embrace your today; and Look forward to your future.” I see a lot of sappy memes like this and a lot of them talk about letting go of regret.
I’m going to throw you a curve ball today and tell you that you should actually hang onto your regret and instead let go of your guilt. I want to take a moment and explain the difference between regret and guilt and why regret is actually a positive thing and guilt is bondage from which you must free yourself.
Let me start with guilt. I believe guilt comes from one of two places: you feel guilty when the Holy Spirit convicts you of some transgression and you’ve yet to seek forgiveness; or you feel guilty because even though you’ve sought and received forgiveness Satan continues to bombard you with negative self-talk and doesn’t allow you to forgive yourself.
The problem with guilt is it makes you a slave to negative feelings. Many times, people who feel guilty are ones who were raised in a way where they were always to blame by others and it becomes a learned behavior – you feel guilty even though the issue at hand really isn’t yours to own.
Satan loves guilt because it limits your ability to serve God. People who have guilt issues – at least the ones perpetrated by Satan and negative self-talk – usually have self-esteem issues, which leads to self-worth issues, which leads to not wanting to do things that may cause them to fail, which would harm their already damaged self-image. Sometimes people with guilt issues even go as far as self-sabotaging themselves in a kind of self-fulfilled prophecy that confirms all the negative self-talk in their head.
But here’s the thing: Once you’ve been forgiven of an issue by God you are completely cleared! Satan, of course, doesn’t want you to believe that. Instead, Satan will tell you the big lie: “Of course God forgives you, but you can’t possibly forgive yourself because what you did was so bad.” Let me ask you a question: If God forgives you why do you think you’re bigger than God? You see, if God forgives you, you have no choice but to forgive yourself. He is God and you are not!
And that’s how Satan keeps you in bondage. He convinces you to focus on you and your feelings about the issue not God and His forgiveness of the issue. And that’s why guilt needs to be tossed aside. It serves no purpose other than when the Holy Spirit uses it to get you to understand you must seek the Father’s forgiveness, which is always given when you ask.
Now regret is something completely different in my mind. Regret is not about negative self-talk or unforgiveness. Instead, regret is about understanding that you did the wrong thing and you learned your lesson and won’t do it again. Regret is the place from where repentance (turning away) comes.
I don’t have guilt in my life, but I have a TON of regrets ranging from having treated people badly to the plethora of bad decisions I’ve made in my life. As my faith in Jesus grew, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth about these episodes in my life and how I had not been acting the way God had wanted. When I sought forgiveness from God AND the people against whom I had trespassed I learned a great deal about humility, God’s will, agape love, and how to live a more Christ-centered life.
I regret having done many things in my life and that regret keeps me from doing those stupid things again. Unlike guilt, however, I am not consumed with regret – it doesn’t control me. Instead, when I think back to the dumb stuff I did, I shake my head and praise God that He enlightened me as to how I should act, as well as transforming me so that I can actually do it. I further thank God for using my mistakes as part of my ministry – sometimes it takes one to know one and having done dumb things in the past I can minister to those doing the same dumb things in their lives because I’ve been there and can show them how to overcome their mistakes!
You see, guilt is about shame while regret is about repentance – turning your life around and using your mistakes to help others. There is a huge difference between the two.
If you’re reading this and there are things in your life over which you feel guilty, my advice is this: go to God, seek forgiveness and healing, and then ACCEPT that forgiveness and healing in your life. Certainly, regret your decisions to do the wrong thing, but use that regret to motivate you to help others overcome their guilt and bad decisions through what you have learned from the Holy Spirit.
Our life in Christ is a life of freedom not bondage to guilt and shame. We have all fallen short of the glory of God but through Jesus, we all can come confidently before God and seek his forgiveness and love.
So, no more guilt! Tell Satan to buzz off. Stop listening to that negative self-talk. Instead, regret your bad decisions and allow the Holy Spirit to use them for good to help others.