The Difference Between Guilt and Repentance When Acknowledging Your Faults

There was a time in my life that I felt so much guilt for all the wrong things I’ve done. Especially for my favorite vice which I couldn’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard I try and pray. The guilt was so overpowering to the point that I wouldn’t even dare join bible studies or lead a group prayer. I did’t feel like I was the right person for such engagements. In other words, I almost quit my prayer life because I felt like a hypocrite.

I usually go to confession. I know deep in my heart that I should be happy that God has given us such a sacrament for the peace of our hearts. But somehow my guilt would always find a way to make me more depressed and self-hating.

Something was wrong. Something was keeping me away from the joys that God is willing to give me since we’ve already reconciled. I was still walking away from him. Not because of my sins, but because of my guilt made me feel that I wasn’t worthy for anything that he would give me. That I haven’t done anything good to earn his love and gifts.

So I tried to look for solutions for this problem of mine. Two particular biblical characters went into my mind in doing so: Judas and Paul.

Judas was all about guilt but Paul was about repentance

Both Judas and Paul have done great atrocities to Christ. Judas betrayed Jesus which lead to his capture and death, while Paul facilitated the murder of many of the first Christians. Even so, Jesus was willing to forgive them and bring about more good in their lives.

We all know that the ending for both apostles were far different from each other. Judas committed suicide, but Paul became a martyr and is now one of the most celebrated saints in the history of Christ’s church.

But how so? Both were at faults of great sins, so shouldn’t both of them be damned? Shouldn’t Paul have a similar fate as Judas’?

Well, the difference was how they handled their faults. Judas succumbed to his guilt, but Paul knew it was wrong to do that. Paul understood that the blood of Christ washed away our guilt, that we may begin a new life with him (Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:14). So instead of wallowing in guilt, he repented.

Guilt is botched self-judgment. We are not lord of our lives to such an action. Judgment is still reserved for the Lord. The good thing is that he judges with mercy. God desires to renew us, not to damn us. To forgive us, not to punish us. But Judas, for whatever reason he had, judged his own life. He lorded over his own existence, a callback to Original Sin. Blinded by his guilt and not seeing the goodness of the Lord, he became a reckless judge, jury, and executioner of his fate.

Repentance but is God’s good judgement bestowed upon us. To Repent is to understand that our wrong doings deny us of the infinite great things that God is willing to do for us. To repent is to allow God’s word to lord over our lives, guaranteeing a glorious fate for ourselves. This is what Paul did. He “let go” then he “let God”.

So my brothers and sisters, if Jesus doesn’t want us to worry about the trivial things of life, how much more does he not want us to drench ourselves with guilt from our past?… Repent and open your hearts to the Lord.