Posts tagged: guilt

Restoring Our Sensitivity to Sin

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By Paula Marolewski, July 11, 2010 4:23 pm

“Why don’t I feel guilty?”

Have you ever asked that question of yourself? You knew you had done wrong. You knew it when you made the decision to commit the sin. You didn’t act out of ignorance. You hadn’t made a “mistake.” But even after your sin “found you out” and you were faced with the consequences, you still felt no guilt.

Some people would say, “You shouldn’t feel guilty! You were victimized by others and acted out of your own significant hurt.”

And perhaps that is true. Perhaps you were victimized. Perhaps you are in pain. That doesn’t mean you are excused from moral responsibility – and from moral guilt.

But what if, based upon your Christian faith, you acknowledge your moral responsibility but still feel nothing but emptiness inside? No true feeling of guilt? What is going on?

If you experience this, it is a definite warning sign – a warning that you have become de-sensitized to sin. All of us can fall into this trap. While there are several reasons we can become de-sensitized to sin, the biggest is probably this: we become de-sensitized because of repeated acts of sin. I read an illustration once (I cannot recall where now), that said the path of sin is similar to sticking a piece of duct tape to your arm and tearing it off. It hurts like crazy the first time – that’s guilt and conscience. But put that same piece of tape on again and tear it away, and it hurts less … there’s less stickiness to it, and less for it to stick onto. Repeat and repeat, and finally the tape won’t stick at all. Similarly, when we repeat sin again and again in our lives, eventually it doesn’t appear to us to be sin at all.

So what do we do when we realize that we have sinned … and that we feel no guilt about it?

Confess and repent of your sin. You see, both confession and repentance are acts of the will. They have nothing to do with our emotions. Certainly, it’s easier to repent if we also feel sorrowful and have an appropriate sense of guilt (since that drives us to our knees faster), but it’s not necessary. Acknowledge your sin, admit your offense against God and man, and make the decision to change your ways. God will forgive you.

Now, however, having taken the most important step of restoring your relationship with God, you need to re-sensitize yourself to sin, so that you recognize it for what it is and resurrect your conscience to help you avoid it. Here are some steps that may prove helpful:

First, I would suggest praying a very, very difficult prayer. It is taken from Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. The prayer is this:

“I beg for intense and increasing sorrow and tears for my sins.”

Ouch. Such a prayer hurts. It will take guts to pray it, but I believe it is an important and necessary step. I encourage you to make it personal, for instance:

“I beg for intense and increasing sorrow and tears for my sins, and a renewed and holy sense of guilt for what I have done. I pray that You would restore to me a horror and hatred of sin that will drive me to You.”

I believe that God will answer that prayer, because it is a prayer to be Christ-like. In the short run, it will hurt like anything, but in the long run, it will be for your good and his glory.

Next, I would spend time thinking about the effect your sin had on the life of the person(s) you sinned against. Imagine how their beliefs about themselves and life and other people have been twisted. Imagine their sense of pain, loss, betrayal, and fear. Imagine how their relationship with God or other people may be scarred for life because of what you did. Imagine how you might have helped set them on a path of sin and death, de-sensitizing their conscience and deceiving their minds.

This will hurt. Let it hurt. Pray that God will give you the grace to embrace the hurt, then give the hurt over to him.

Finally, I encourage you to pray for the person(s) you sinned against. Pray for their:

  • Spirit, that God would draw them to himself if they do not know him, or that they would be restored in their faith.
  • Emotions, that God would bring healing for the pain, fear, self-loathing, etc. Imagine the emotions they might be feeling, and pray specifically about those things.
  • Mind, that God would remove lies, deceptions, and self-justifications and help them to understand and embrace the Truth.
  • Body, that God would bring healing if there are physical wounds from your sin.
  • Relationships, that God would give them people to support, love, care, and encourage them.

Bear in mind that re-sensitizing your spirit will take time, just as de-sensitizing it did. Do not be surprised if, as you continue to grow in the Lord, you find yourself “awakening” more and more to the horror and guilt of your sin. That is healthy, if it is treated appropriately: accept the sensitivity with thanksgiving and rejoice, for you are forgiven! Satan plays with guilt two ways: removing our sense of it so that we can’t recognize sin, and heightening our sense of it so that we can’t recognize forgiveness. Remember: God intended guilt to let us know we had done wrong, so that he could make it right.  


© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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