Guilt and forgiveness from a Christian and Psychological perspective From a Christian perspective, guilt is the feeling that we get when we know we have failed in obeying the commandments of God, or that we have acted in ways contrary to what we believe is right. The Baker’s Theological Dictionary of the Bible (2000) emphasizes a positive aspect of guilt, according to the author, guilt can be beneficial in the following manners: “A deep feeling of guilt, even if caused by oppressive parenting, can yet have positive effect in deepening our appreciation of our failures before God and the debt of obedience that we owe.” (Elwell, 2000 p.319)
According to Elwell, guilt can have a positive effect in the life of the person, it can cause us to be aware of Christ, and what God have done for us. Another benefit of guilt is that it can inspire people to change, the feeling of guilt is a feeling that people do not want to have, therefore, guilt can cause positive change in behavior, as long as guilt is not taken to an extreme. Collins (2001) describes the difference between objective guilt and subjective guilt, according to Collins, “Objective guilt refers to the legal status of a person who has broken a law, committed a crime, or violated some standard” while “Subjective guilt refers to the emotions or inner feeling – most often feelings of remorse, regret, or self-condemnation – that come because of one’s actions or thinking. (p.131)
One of the differences in these two forms of guilt is how the individual feels about it, subjective guilt affects our emotions, it impacts our thinking, it cause us to have certain negatives thoughts about ourselves. It makes us realize that we are not a good person, and this is what bring us to the next forms of guilt, according to Collins (2001) there are four of them (p.p 132-135):
Theological guilt: this is when we realize that we have failed to obey the commandments of God, when the person have ignored the divine standards, when people disregard God’s authority, His goodness, His will, His truth and His wisdom.
Legal guilt: This is when the individual violates the laws of the land in which they live, people break these rules every day, to some small of a large scale, but for the most part, they are not caught, so they do not face the consequences of their guilt. Some examples of this might be, driving faster than the speed limit imposed or throwing garbage in the ground.
Social guilt: This form of guilt occur every time we mistreat and fail to show love and compassion to another human being. This mistreatment is is a violation of the law, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). When we mistreat another human being, we are sinning against God, because God our Creator have created us in His own image. Some examples of social guilt are when we offend someone by being rude, when we ignored other people’s cultures, or their invitation to visit them, these guilt feeling will not land us in court, but it is still a violation of the commandments of God.
Psychological guilt: lastly, psychological guilt is a guilt that comes when we violate our personal standards, when we fail to act according to what our conscience thinks is right, when we fail to act according to our morals and ethics. We all have a conscience, and our conscience helps us to create a set of guidelines of what we believe is good, bad, right, wrong, important or unimportant, and our conscience is that little voice that either accuses our actions or excuses our behaviors. Our conscience is what help us to come to a place where we realize we need repentance and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the cure for our guilt, as broken creatures living in a broken world, we are all in need of receiving forgiveness from God and from one another, and we are also in need of extending our forgiveness to one another. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus said: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:14-15) Jesus made very clear the importance of forgiveness, it is an essential part of being with our Father in heaven. But it is interesting to realize that Jesus said “when” they sin against you. People will sin against us, and we will sin against others, but just as God has forgiven our sins, we are instructed to forgive those who have sinned against us.
Working with abused and abandoned children requires a clear understanding of the doctrine of forgiveness, these children are often bitter for the way they have been mistreated, and at times, they have also hurt other people in order to survive. But in order for them to live the life The Lord intended for them to live, they need to learn the importance of forgiving those who have caused them harm, and they also need to understand where they have sinned and search for God’s forgiveness as well. The Holy Spirit role
The Prophet Joel predicted the arrival of the Holy Spirit when he said: “And afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old man will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29) And later, in the New Testament, Paul confirm the arrival of the Holy Spirit when he said: For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor. 12:13)
The Holy Spirit is God, God is in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does things that only God can do, the Holy spirit was active in creation (Gen. 1:2) the Holy Spirit also came to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35) and the Holy Spirit also inspired the Biblical writers (2 Peter 1:21). Collins, (2001) suggested that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of the believers in these five specific ways (pp.157-163):
The Holy Spirit changes believers: The Holy Spirit works in the life of each individual Christian in order to bring spiritual growth, this is the process we come to know as sanctification, which is the process of becoming more and more like Christ.
The Holy Spirit guides: Jesus was led by the holy Spirit, and so are we, the Holy Spirit help us make decisions, the Holy Spirit also guides us through God’s Words. The Holy Spirit represents God’s presence in the world today: The Holy Spirit’s current presence among us is practical and encouraging reminder that no believer is ever alone. The Holy Spirit creates community: This is evident when the Holy Spirit came into the believers on the day of Pentecost. And after that, the Christians began to eat together, serve together, pray and worship together, and they began to do whatever they could to help each other with whatever they needed.
The Holy Spirit empowers believers so we can serve: The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus for His ministry, and Jesus, in turn made a promise that His followers would be given the power to impact the world with the Gospel. Supernatural agents in counseling
The supernatural agents in counseling are the angels, according to Collins (2001) “Angel comes from a Greek word that simply means “messenger.” Angels are God’s messengers, and this explains why they sometimes reflect divine glory and majesty and arouse fear when they are seen by humans.”(p.177). Angels are are created beings, they are individuals, but they do not have a body, they are spiritual beings. And angels are superior to humans in intellect and wisdom, but their wisdom is limited, unlike God, they are limited in what they can do.
The primary function of the angels is to glorify God, but they also communicate God’s message, and they are able to give guidance and instruction, the angels fight our spiritual battles for us, and they minister to the needs of the people, and they also carry out God’s judgment. The angels are active today as they have always been, but they are rarely visible to us humans, the angels are in constant battle with Satan and his followers.
Satan is also a supernatural agent, a fallen angel, who try to overthrow God, and he now works to destroy everything that God created, in a counseling setting this is very important to know, especially when working with children who have been abandoned or abused. This student does not believe that a person can be possessed or controlled by demons, but we can suffer from demonic influences, and this can be seeing through generational sin, which is a sin that moves through family lines.
As a counselor, it is important to understand the influences and limitations of the demonic forces in the lives of the counselees, that way we know how to pray for them, how to counsel them better and if they are in some way influenced by demonic forces. It is written in the Gospel of Matthew: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt.19:14) As Christian counselors, we must always keep this scripture in mind when working with children, the counselor should always point the way towards Jesus, no matter what the child have suffered, Jesus is the Healer, and He can restore them to Him.