Needless guilt is common among conscientious single Christians

Needless guilt plagues thousands of Christians, especially singles. So intent on pleasing God--and displeasing him--we may imagine we're responsible for things we didn't even do.

It's easy to forget about grace. Our world is so performance-based that we imagine we can behave our way into God's favor. We also think we can misbehave ourselves out of his love. Fortunately, God doesn't think--or love--the way we do.

The more determined we are to please God, the more likely we are to come up with some imaginary failing.

When guilt becomes its own punishment

needless guilt

Let's face it: guilt feels bad, whether it's deserved or undeserved. When it's undeserved, it's an unconscious way of punishing ourselves. You sure can't enjoy life when you feel remorse about something, even if you can't put your finger on what it is.

Advertising and other influences try to convince us we don't measure up. Believe it or not, many ads want us to walk around with a vague sense of inferiority. The solution, according to those ads, is to buy their product! What a coincidence. What's even more remarkable is that this strategy is effective and has been for decades.

After a while, it seems natural to feel bad about yourself. And if you don't have anything to feel bad about, you make something up. Or you feel bad without even knowing why.

Needless guilt clings to you like a parasite, sucking the enthusiasm and energy out of you.

Needless guilt vs. your conscience

Most of us know when we've done something wrong. If you're a Christian, it's painfully obvious. The right response is to confess, repent, accept God's forgiveness, and move on.

When you've committed a sin, you can point to the Commandment you've violated or a specific act that hurt someone. You know the problem and won't feel right again until you deal with it.

With needless guilt, on the other hand, you have an anxious, nagging feeling, but you can't articulate what's causing it. In fact, you may examine your conscience and find nothing wrong, yet the bad feeling persists. What gives?

You may have an overly sensitive conscience, imagining you've done wrong when you really haven't. Or you may be so intent on living a perfect life that you have this sense of self-condemnation all the time.

You want to live a perfect life, but you haven't admitted to yourself yet that you can't. Nobody can.

Is there a solution to needless guilt?

Sometimes you have to talk this problem out with a pastor, relative, or trusted friend. We all need to recognize, at some point in our lives, that there's nothing to be gained from beating ourselves up.

Since you're on this web site, trying to improve your life and your relationship with God, you're not a sociopath with no conscience. Odds are, you're just trying too hard. You've set impossibly high standards for yourself.

You expect more from yourself than God expects from you.

Trying to force yourself to lighten up won't work, but recognizing the cause for your needless guilt will help you monitor yourself better.

God loves you as you are, but he's always working with you to make you better. He never stops loving you in the process, and we're all in process. None of us have arrived, and we won't in this life.

Accept God's forgiveness. Forgive yourself.

Know that you're covered by God's grace. When you can accept that truth, there's no reason to hang onto those bad feelings.

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