I’m happy to be bringing you a three-part series from my buddy Preachers Kid Probs.
Originally when I wrote this I had written a post that was around five pages. While I don’t mind reading, I do mind reading my writing because- at least to me- it proves John Calvin’s thoughts on reprobation correct. So in order to save you the perpetual boredom of having to read bad writing I thought it best to break this all up into 3 parts and look at misplaced guilt, misplaced blame, and how we should deal with those things. Today, though, I wanted to talk about the original focus of this article: misplaced guilt.
If you’re anything like me, there are some nights that you lay awake in bed, unable to sleep, and find yourself mulling over the day and feeling guilty about something that you had witnessed or heard. Recently a close friend told me about a situation in her life that she felt guilty about and in the course of our conversation we both came to the realization that her guilt had been misplaced. Even more than her, though, I realized that I had a lot of misplaced guilt in my own life. I’m talking about walking in guilt for something that happened to you that you had little- if any- control of.
My senior year of High School I chose to hang out with a friend who I shouldn’t have been hanging out with in the first place. I had gone over to her apartment after baseball practice with the wrong intentions and she and I ended up watching Saved By The Bell until close to midnight. Nothing bad happened between her and I, but my heart wasn’t in the right place. I got a call from my dad telling me that I needed to come home sooner than later because our next-door neighbor had killed himself earlier that evening. The police and coroner were still in our cul-de-sac when I got home and had been taking statements and what not from various neighbors. As I was talking to an officer, I asked what time they thought he had taken his life and I found out that it would have been after I had gotten home from practice on a normal day.
My heart sank; I thought that if I had been at home I might have been able to keep him from killing himself. Had my heart been in the right place, I would have not been some place I shouldn’t have been and legitimately there might have been something I could have done. Whether that was his wife not finding him in the backyard or being able to save his life- I won’t ever know. Until the other night, I had lived with the guilt that I was somehow involved in that man’s suicide. As I talked with my friend, I told her that you couldn’t feel guilty for someone else’s actions. You can grieve for them or with them, but you cannot take on guilt that you do not have.
For a while I had blamed the girl for that night. For a while I even blamed the man who took his own life for putting me in the situation where I felt guilty. I realized that I was placing the blame on everyone but me. Do I blame myself for the situation? In some ways I still do. I’ve come not to blame myself for not being there, but rather I’ve come to blame myself for allowing my heart and thoughts of indiscretions consume my actions to the point that when this unfortunate and heartbreaking event happened, I was taking guilt upon myself for what happened.
You want to talk about misplaced guilt? The man that was blind from birth knew all about that. The Pharisees and all the townsfolk said that either he had committed some sin or that his parents had committed a sin so egregious that God struck this man with blindness. When Christ passed by him, “His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3) The guilt this man had carried his entire life was misplaced. Later on in this story, Christ heals the man of course, and though others try to remind him of his guilt the man chooses to follow and worship Christ entirely guilt free.
When you live with guilt that isn’t yours it weighs you down. Think of it like this: all of the sudden you take on responsibility for a transgression that you didn’t commit and have no way to get it off your chest because it was never yours to begin with. It’s like taking someone else’s shift in addition to your own and only getting paid for your own shift.
Christ tells us “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) Christ came into the world so that we could walk in his grace unburdened by guilt- both our own and others.
Take a second to make a mental inventory of the guilt that you have in your life, if it is truly your own, make amends where amends need to be made and sing in repentance to Jesus Christ. Should you find that you’re carrying someone else’s yoke, take it off. Cast off the shackles that bound you to stones that were never yours to begin with. Christ died so that you may be free and not a slave to misplaced guilt. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain!
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
– Do You Struggle With Misplaced Blame?