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Christian Counseling - Universal Guilt

Guilt is a self-conscious feeling of having done something wrong, of being imperfect. It's a warning device telling us we missed the mark. In the wilderness, when hikers fail to observe and follow trail markers they veer off the safe and intended path, leaving them vulnerable to consequences. Ultimately, a person may lose his or her life. When we fail to adhere to just one of God's markers, our spirits die. Yet, it is great news that we can be rescued by faith in Christ. He puts us back on the right trail.

Guilt is often coupled with a desire to undo the misbehavior through activities, such as confession and making up for the misdeed. Most people believe they deserve to be punishment for their poor behavior. This produces a sense of fear and anxiety over upcoming punishment. Once again, God extends His grace to us by saying there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.

Theologically, we all have a sin nature and, therefore, we all have inherent guilt, whether or not we feel the guilt. All people in all their relationships are guilty of making mistakes and harming others, regardless of their good intentions. Every parent, child, coworker, boss, husband, wife, pastor, counselor, friend and family member has universal guilt, again, whether or not it's felt.

One of life's great tasks is for all of us to work out our universal guilt. This is done through being open to and ready to communicate with those who offend us or whom we offend, soon er or later to all with whom we regularly relate. The most unattended to and unfinished, problemed human relationship exists between a parent and adult child. Guilt rests on the souls all parents and their grown up children because on one is perfect. Every parent and adult child needs to squarely define their individual mistakes and openly discuss them with one another. This requires a series of exploring conversations and isn't something that can be done in one or two talks.

Expect to encounter resistance within yourself and in the other. For example, I have had several parents tell me that their adult child quickly discounts, excuses or forgives any parental wrongdoing, leaving little room for open and honest communication. In the end, most parents don't feel relieved by these kind of talks. Perhaps God experiences the same thing when His adult children offer confessions, which are often only a few sentences long.

Allowing oneself and strongly requesting the other sit in the thoughts and feelings and explore the history and impact of those experiences will permit a rich exchange from which both can emerge guilt free.

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