Guilt-Free New Year

As far back as I can remember, I have not kept a New Year’s Resolution. It’s been years since I even made one. I already have a pretty sensitive ‘guilty conscience’ over the silliest things – or at least my husband thinks so. From time to time, I have expressed that I felt guilty for over-indulging at a holiday meal or a special restaurant. His response would always be “Why feel guilty? Maybe stuffed, but guilty?”

So, where did my guilty feelings over food come from? Perhaps growing up in the era of Twiggy (a very thin model) affected my thoughts on food. Or, perhaps it was the result of my family’s way of doing things when I was a kid. When we visited the local donut shop, we each ordered one donut. When we had ice cream, we had one scoop of our favorite flavor. Those portions were always more than satisfying. 

And then one day, I was handed a bowl of ice cream, with multiple scoops in the bowl, and I was literally dumbfounded. Could this all be for me? Two scoops I could comprehend, but more than that was for a group of people to eat together, right? With that one simple bowl of ice cream, my horizons were drastically broadened. I truly was amazed at this discovery, and to this day I still have to tell myself “It’s okay!” when I indulge beyond one donut or one scoop of ice cream. And yes, I do still feel a bit guilty inside.

There are many things that we may struggle with guilt over. Our spending habits. Indulging in gossip. Our lack of self-discipline. Negligence in reading our Bible. Yelling at the kids. The food that goes to waste in the frig. All the times we’ve given into chocolate or our favorite latte instead of enjoying a piece of fruit or an ice cold glass of water. Ah, yes. Temptation is all around us, and we are faced with many choices each and every day. To indulge or refrain? Take time out to enjoy or press on toward the goal? Do we mix up what is truly a ‘guilty pleasure’ for relaxation, or do we refrain from relaxation feeling guilty in even the thought of taking time off? I don’t want to tempt you, but I do think we might be oversensitive to some things (how often or when we ‘should’ pray), and we are numb to others – the ones we probably should have true feelings of guilt about.

To live a guilt-free lifestyle, we need to be able to identify false guilt from real guilt. False guilt is self-imposed conviction over things that are not sinful. Things that we think others expect of us. Things that we have labeled as ‘necessary to be successful’ in life. True guilt is based on our relationship with sin. When we’ve crossed the line – whether for actions taken or actions we did not follow through on. Sins of commission and sins of omission are both reasons to have feelings of guilt. Those feelings of guilt are healthy and, hopefully, bring us to repentance and change.

The freedom that can be found in forgiveness is amazing…and yet, I’m still tempted to place crazy expectations on myself. “I should do this.” or “I could do better at that.” Do you hear those whispers too? Determining the source of our internal dialogue is key to living guilt-free now and in years to come. Perhaps you too have some mixed signals in your ‘guilt-meter’ of life. Is it time to move forward, let go of the misconceptions and false guilt and live in the freedom found in Christ? Here’s a few questions you may want to consider as you start fresh in the new year.

1. What makes you feel guilty, and is that guilt the result of sin or misplaced blame?
2. Do you beat yourself up for not meeting goals quickly and without any ‘restarts’?
3. Do you allow yourself some ‘guilty pleasures’ from time to time. (Ok, that should say a ‘splurge’!)
4. Have you adopted others’ expectations for yourself that no one else has actually asked of you?
5. Have you asked God to give you the strength - and strategy - to overcome the sin or unhealthy habit you’d like to change?

Rather than making a resolution one day a year, why not make a choice each day to become more like Christ? No doubt, we’ll each have our good days and our bad days – and that’s okay. The point is, are we making an effort? Are we moving forward? Are we getting back up? Are we walking in the power of the Holy Spirit?

We are reminded in Romans 8:1-3 that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” 

In Christ, we can live a guilt-free life. What a precious gift! Let us not allow ourselves to be burdened by the world’s expectations, but let us resolve to serve God as best as we can - with His help - and one day at a time!


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