Summary: God has given us the ability to feel guilt and shame when we have done what is wrong so that it might lead us to forgiveness and the freedom from guilt and shame. Satan wants to destroy us with the burden of guilt and shame, but in Christ our guilt and shame have been removed.
A. In the Spring of 1959 an Air Force major entered a Texas mental institution for the second time.
1. He had tried to commit suicide twice and he had been arrested for forgery and robbery.
2. For years he had been drinking heavily and his marriage had disintegrated.
3. Yet, only 15 years before, he had been a model officer headed for a promising career.
4. One momentous event precipitated the major’s plunge – he flew the plane over Hiroshima when the first atom bomb was dropped.
5. Shortly afterward the major began to be haunted in his dreams by throngs of Japanese men, women and children, and his own life began to collapse.
6. The psychiatrist who treated him said that the major was subconsciously trying to bring punishment from society to atone for the guilt he felt over Hiroshima.
7. Unresolved guilt was destroying his life.
B. Now, few of us suffer such grievous guilt, but all of us do experience feelings of guilt and shame.
1. And all of us need to learn how to embrace and employ these feelings in ways that are helpful rather than harmful.
C. Today, we continue our new sermon series called “Embracing and Employing our Emotions.
1. Last week we began the series by declaring that emotions are a gift from God.
2. Last week, I suggested that we need to avoid two extremes with regard to our emotions:
a. On the one hand, we need to avoid the extreme that ignores and suppresses our emotions.
b. On the other hand, we need to avoid the extreme that allows our emotions to be in-charge.
3. I suggested that God has given us the capacity to feel in order that our lives might be enriched.
4. I concluded that God’s primary means of bringing about our emotional health and wellbeing is through our relationship with God.
5. It is through our relationship with God that we experience: grace and forgiveness, freedom in Christ, a spiritual family that provides belonging, a wholesome and truthful self-image, and joy.
6. Each week, as we examine one of our emotions, we will explore how that emotion is given to us for our wellbeing, and how to allow God to use it in our lives for our very best.
D. So, let’s turn our attention to feelings of guilt and shame.
1. The ability to feel guilt and shame is designed by God to help us, but those feelings can easily go astray and lead to our destruction.
2. Let’s spend a few minutes thinking about guilt and shame and to try to better understand these emotions.
E. For starters, it is important to realize that although we may use the words “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.
1. Guilt and shame are related to each other, but they are not identical.
a. Guilt is the bad feeling we have for doing something we should not have done.
b. Shame is the bad feeling of regret for being an inadequate person.
c. To boil it down: Guilt is about what you did; shame is about who you are.
d. Both feelings hurt, but it is important to know the difference.
2. Guilt’s message is “I did something wrong or bad” and there is a need for forgiveness and correction or reconciliation.
3. Shame’s message is “I am bad” and there is a need for an identity correction and relational connection.
4. But here is where things can get really mixed up and tricky:
a. It is possible to be guilty without feeling shame, but it is also possible to feel shame when we are not guilty.
b. We can feel shame for things we can’t control and feel guilty when we haven’t done anything wrong.
c. It is so sad to me that shame is commonly experienced by victims of abuse, and that it’s not uncommon for the victim of abuse to feel more shame than the perpetrator.
d. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times when we should feel guilty, but we don’t, which can be the result of ignorance, a misguided conscience or a seared conscience.
e. I like how one person put it: consciousness is when I am aware of something, conscience is when I wish I wasn’t.
f. Someone else has explained guilt like this: Guilt is like the red warning light on the dashboard of the car. You can either stop and deal with the trouble, or break out the light.
F. Satan, our enemy, has many ways of using these emotions against us.
1. Satan wants us to feel one of two ways.
2. Satan sometimes wants us to not feel guilty when we really are guilty and should feel it.
3. But for many of us, Satan wants us to feel so much guilt and shame that we feel discouraged and hopeless.