Soul-Crushing Guilt

Soul-Crushing Guilt

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Romans 4:7-8

The addict, in his destructive behavior, hurts not only himself, but also those closest to him. The drug use, lies, financial loss, embarrassment, and insanity, all add up to a betrayal that is hardest on those we’re supposed to love the most. In recovery then, we begin to recognize the impact of our behavior, which can lead to soul-crushing guilt.

That’s how it was for me at least. Sitting in treatment, with my life an utter disaster, I found it difficult to concentrate on recovery because I was so ashamed of what I’d done to my family. Those around me told me I must simply forgive myself as they had, but that seemed dishonest and unfair. We’d all caused massive damage in our families, yet they didn’t have a care in the world.

I was in a Christian treatment program, so I was told by my counselors that I must turn to God, asking forgiveness. I did this and I absolutely believe that he forgave me. I had two guilts though. I knew I’d sinned against God, but I’d also sinned against my family, which was really the source of my shame.

What I wanted, was the same instant absolution from my family that I got from God. That’s not quite the way it worked though. For me, I had to daily look to God, finding my comfort in the fact that I was forgiven and loved by him. Dealing with my guilt and shame helped me restructure my priorities, so that I learned to put God first every day, which is where he should have been all along.

Not accidentally, putting God first and finding my comfort in his forgiveness, was also the only route to finding forgiveness from my family. To deal with my guilt and shame, I couldn’t simply forgive myself and continue on my way. To deal with that – to make amends – I had to embrace radical change. To truly change, I had to daily abandon my way, putting God first.

When we’re crushed by the guilt of our past behavior, we must go to God, finding absolution in him. We must find our purpose, meaning, and peace there first. Then, we must be transformed in him so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Authentic transformation in God is the amends we make to our families.

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