Thoughts on living with guilt and regrets

I remember a job interview once, where I was asked if I had any regrets. I thought that was a funny question. (Maybe they were trying to determine if I had a conscience or not? Ha!)

Like, what did they expect me to say? “Yeah, there was the time I tortured this slug with a cup of salt. Gosh. I’ve never been able to forgive myself.”


I did have regrets and I told them some of them. They smiled and hired me anyways. I guess I didn’t come across too far gone.

But, I’ve been thinking lately, about how we really are supposed to process all of that—the stupid things we’ve done in the past. All the guilt and regret. What do we do with it? And specifically, what do we do with it in light of what Jesus has done for us?

Because the thing is, we’ve all screwed up. Like an hour ago.

We’ve all failed. We’ve all wished we had said this other thing instead, or picked that choice in lieu of, and some of my friends are like, “Wait. Why did I marry THIS person,” or we wish we hadn’t given up on that person, or hadn’t wasted so much life with these addictions…and on and on we go. Till we’re worn out and buried under a load of, “What in the world was I thinking? I’m an idiot. Gosh, I’m an idiot.”

It paralyzes us.

So, what do we do with these feelings of failure? Well, here’s how Jesus is teaching me to process my own crud.

I remember that there is a big difference between hindsight and regret. Hindsight reviews the past and reminds me that I can at least learn from it. Regret, on the other hand, takes the past, marches it before my ashamed self and then bashes me over the head with it. Repeatedly. (Yeah, thanks regret. You’re really no help at all.)

Once I’ve confessed those wrong things I’ve done, to Christ, He washes my heart white as snow. Wipes the slate clean. That’s what the cross was about. Jesus’ blood washes us clean from all the wrongs of our past. We are no longer dark and murky, back there. We are bright, shiny white. New. Blameless. Guiltless. Unsullied. Our innocence is restored.

That deserves a good pause to sink in. Isn’t all that a glorious wonder?

SO, the next time regret comes parading all uppity-like across the movie reel of our minds, we can re-train ourselves and change the way we think. No more, “Wow. I’m SUCH a dufus-dork! Let me just stay here and wallow in my dufus-dorkness for a while and somehow that will make me feel better.” But, instead, “Thank you, hindsight, for reminding me not to do that again. Now, go away regret. You are dismissed. All of those offenses and even my memories of them are covered by the grace of Jesus. I am released! Liberated to become my most real beautiful self. The one God always meant me to be.”

And by God’s good grace, we keep moving forward. One baby step at a time. Out into the sunshine-y light.

Relaxed. Unfettered. And free.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. (Romans 8:1-4) The Message

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