There is a difference between guilt (self-condemnation) and sorrow (heartache). There is a difference between shame (loss of self-respect) and remorse (pangs of conscience). Guilt leads to shame and shame is what makes you go into hiding to die. Sorrow leads to remorse and remorse makes you offer your brokenness into repentance.
Repentance starts with grace. Grace is not earned. Grace is the instigator. Repentance is the effect.
After failure, there is always a period of self-condemnation and inevitable loss of self-respect. You have engaged your sense of self resulting in your sin and it always makes what is dead (your old life, or ‘flesh’ life) feel alive. If the self, or flesh, feels alive, the awareness and (re)action do not originate from from the Spirit. The Spirit is in competition with the boisterous voice of selfishness. When you fail your own set of values and behave in a way that even you don’t approve, then your conscience will call on you. The natural reaction will be ‘self’ first. Self-condemnation. Loss of self-respect.
There is danger in staying in that place. First of all, the actions look similar to sorrow and remorse: the flood of tears, the regret, the desire to make it right. Second, even if you are able to put back what you knocked over, or you’re able to make amends with the relationships you damaged, you will not grow. You can write off lost relationships as part of your punishment, but you will not grow. You can learn lessons, set up better boundaries so you don’t repeat your mistakes, but you will not grow. ‘Growing’ in Biblical terms refers to growing up in faith and growing in grace.
Grow in grace and understanding of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. –2 Peter 3:18
The only way to experience sorrow is to let go of self-condemnation. You have to focus on what Jesus did and not on what you did. No matter how long you beat yourself up or try to out-do your bad with good, you’ll never be able to make it go away. The only thing that can make it go away is grace. Self-condemnation is a barrier that feels right, but is detrimental to your spirit.
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. -Matthew 6:6
You don’t deserve grace, but nobody does. You can’t earn it and you need to realize that. Nobody likes to be the one who obviously doesn’t belong. We want to prove that we have a rightful place, but you can’t work hard enough for this. When you try, you’re focusing on yourself and you’re working in the wrong direction. Anything you can set up in your life that is not built on grace, but built on you earning your way, is built on a cracked foundation and will have to be torn down. Meaning: you’ll have to go through this over and over until you realize that you can never be good enough.
Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone worse than you and the kind of relief you get at their expense is not grace, it’s pride. Don’t use the gracelessness of others as a catapult to make yourself feel better. That’s a dead end. The sooner you realize that, the better.
What’s done is done. Jesus was finished with His part before you began. There is nothing you can do that would render His sacrifice useless. Trusting that is where your freedom comes from. When you don’t have to protect yourself anymore, or earn your own way, you can wilt in the presence of mercy.
People who don’t understand this order will pound your mistakes into you with accusations. It’s natural to want to defend yourself. However, when you surround yourself with people who understand grace, they won’t let you fall into shame because shame does not lead to repentance. Grace does. It’s backward, but it’s the process.
You do not need the approval of your peers or leaders to move forward in grace. You cannot make an unbeliever believe. Their time will come. Until then, let go of self-condemnation, accept grace and move forward.
Remember, accepting grace comes first, repentance is the response. When you open your heart to His aggressive forgiveness, you’ll find that He has been there the whole time.
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. -Romans 5:1-2