[A]ccording to my wife I have a Master’s Degree in giving guilt trips. Most of the time I do it for fun–just to see what reaction I’ll get. But on occasion, I admit, I’ve used it to try and get my own way.
What is a guilt trip? It’s simply making someone feel guilty to get them to do what you want. Sound like fun? It’s really quite easy once you get the hang of it. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say a friend tells you about a wonderful day at the beach they enjoyed over the weekend. You can usually start them on a little guilt trip by saying something like, “That’s sounds fun. I wish I had friends that invited me to go to the beach with them.” In theory, this will make your friend feel bad for failing to ask you to join them. Bingo! They’re on a guilt trip.
Need another example? Let’s say you come home from work one day with tired feet. You casually mention out loud how good a foot massage would feel. But your spouse tries to put you off with some statement such as, “Honey, I can’t tonight. I’m busy preparing for the big charity event tomorrow raising money for widows, orphans and abandoned kittens.” Your guilt trip response could be something like, “No problem, Dear. I understand. If you need me for anything, I’ll just be lying on the couch writhing in pain and agony until the aspirin kicks in and hopefully brings some relief.” (Note: the more cheerful your voice sounds, the better the guilt trip works.)
A co-worker once told me with a sly smile, “My mother is a travel agent for guilt trips. And my father? He’s an experienced guilt trip tour guide.” They sound like a great team! Do you know anyone like that? A friend, a sibling, a grandparent, who knows how to send you on a first class guilt trip?
Though it’s sometimes fun to joke about guilt trips, the fact is, for many of us the subject of guilt is no laughing matter. Guilt can be a heavy burden to bear. A weight on the heart that is hard to lift off.
Have you ever experienced true guilt? Real remorse? Perhaps it happened as a result of harsh words, broken promises, dishonest dealings, a lost temper, or neglected duties? If you’ve ever done something you wish undone, said something you wish unsaid, then guilt has likely visited you. That uncomfortable tugging of your conscience letting you know you’ve failed. When confronted with guilt, many people push it down, wave it away, or just ignore it altogether. Why? It’s uncomfortable, sorrowful, or painful.
King David, the ancient Psalm-writer, understood the pain of guilt that comes from doing great wrong. After committing adultery with the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers, David gave the order to have the man killed hoping to cover his own crime. But David’s deeds were discovered and guilt hung heavy on his heart. But unlike so many who experience guilt from their mistakes, David didn’t push the feelings away. Instead, he poured out his heart to God. The record of his prayer is found in Psalm 51. Here are a few phrases from David’s confession to God:
Have mercy on me, O God,
Because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
Blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt,
Purify me from my sin…
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:1-2, 10 NLT)
David was willing to come honestly before God and confess his wrongdoing. As a result, God offered him forgiveness and lifted his burden of guilt. The record of David’s story reveals that God not only forgave David, but even called David a man after his own heart.
If you are experiencing guilt right now, why not pick up a few tips from David’s experience. Don’t keep yourself stuck on a guilt trip when God is willing to lift your heavy burden through forgiveness. Here are the steps David took that you and I can take as well:
1) He honestly confessed his wrongs to God.
2) He asked for God’s forgiveness.
3) He was willing to make his wrongs right wherever possible.
4) He asked God not just for a change of heart, but for a new, clean, pure heart.
Why cling to guilt that weights your heart down when God’s grace can lift the weight off? There is no offense you’ve committed to great for God to forgive. The truth is, nothing from your past can keep God from your future if you embrace him in the present.
“Guilt is banished through love and truth.” Proverbs 16:6 MSG
Fun Question: What’s the best trip anyone has tried to send you on?
Thoughtful Question: Why do you think guilt exists? And is it a good thing or a bad thing?
(Share your thoughts in the comments)