Guilt: The feeling of responsibility or remorse for an offense, wrong, or violation of rule - whether real or imagined. This definition certainly hits the nail on the head, doesn't it? Some of our guilt is quite real - we did something wrong and now we feel the "remorse" and "responsibility" which are an outcome of the wrongdoing. At other times, our guilt is really not "real" - it is a thing of "memory" - almost like it is imprinted into the fibers of our brain and we cannot get free from it. Genuine or real guilt is a normal response to wrong behavior. On the other hand, imagined guilt (false guilt) is sometimes "put upon" us by another - we really aren't responsible for the outcome, but another person is making us feel like we are. What do we do with this kind of guilt?
Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him. When I kept it all inside, my bones turned to powder, my words became daylong groans. The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up. Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.” Suddenly the pressure was gone—my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared. (Psalm 32:2-5)
Disobedience is not a "learned" thing - trust me, we are ALL born with the capability and tendency to live disobediently! If you don't believe me, just remember the last time someone told you NOT to do something and you did it anyway! Like when you see the wet paint sign and just have to touch the wall because you don't believe it! We test our limits, don't we? We have from the beginning of time! It is "natural" to us. We act in a way contrary to what we know to be right, then we feel the guilt associated with the wrong decision. We can get out from under this weight of guilt - by confession, repentance, and choosing to act in a right manner. On the other hand, when someone else is placing guilt upon us for something we did not do, we cannot associate the guilt with any wrong-doing on our part, so it is difficult to ever free ourselves from that guilt feeling. We cannot quite find the "right" action to free us from the guilt another places upon us.
The key to determining when guilt is really "ours" is found in the idea of responsibility. When something is out of our control, are we responsible for it? No, absolutely not because we could neither do anything to prevent the action, nor could we alter the course of the action. If a plane falls from the sky because the pilot suffered a sudden death, he is not responsible for the plane falling. If the pilot fell asleep at the controls because he stayed out all night partying, he has some responsibility in the plane's plummeting to earth!
I bring up these two ideas of guilt - real and imagined - because most of us struggle with the type of guilt which is outside of our realm of responsibility. We allow others to place the guilt on us because somehow we "believe" it is the right thing to do. God holds you responsible for your actions, but only because they are YOUR actions! He doesn't hold you responsible for the actions of another against you, nor the actions another wants to make you to feel guilty for! The key comes in examining our hearts. David was a good "heart examiner" - he frequently called for God to do just that! He allowed himself to be opened up for examination - allowing God to point out where he needed change, then moving out in obedience to what God asked. He didn't ask others how to be free from the guilt they piled on him - he asked God if the guilt was real, what he should do to be free from it, and then allowed God to wash away his guilt.
Truth be told, we get freedom from guilt when we take it to God. He points out our responsibility in the wrongdoing and then he points out the actions of the cross to have already dealt with those feelings of guilt. Guilt stays at the foot of the cross because the actions are dealt with there! God doesn't send us away from the cross - he draws us nearer to it - so we see our actions already written there in the blood of Jesus. It was that blood which provided the covering over of our sinfulness and freed us from the guilt associated with the wrongdoing. Yep, we need to change our ways so we don't do the same things again, but we don't have to walk away with the load of guilt associated with doing wrong. We leave the load there and pick up the lifting peace of God in the process.
Remember this - no one can lay a load of guilt on you and make it stick if you are not responsible for the actions which produced the guilt. It is a "guilt trip" you need not take! In allowing God to examine our hearts each and every time someone wants us to take this "trip", we might just find ourselves taking the "trip" a little less often! Just sayin!