Guilt is the thud in the gut feeling that occurs when a great gulf sperate who we are and who we think we ought to be:
Three typical forms
1 Self punishment – I deserve a good swift kick
2 Self rejection – nobody loves me. Especially God
3 Self shame – I feel worthless
While some guilt in the face of wrong doing is natural, with teens it can often be irrational in teens with no substance behind it leading to the development of negative personality traits or a predisposition towards guilt, such guilt is irrational and present a young people with what can often seem like a in a maze of self condemnation.
How to Help:
Most teens will suffering silence about their guilt, when it is spoken about it is necessary to come to a n understanding as to whether it is rational or irrational guilt they are feeling. The important thing when dealing with true guilt is to remind people that God WANTS to forgive, and so confession, forgiveness and in some cases restitution are needed. The following question may help identify the type of guilt
1 is what you feel guilty about a result of real sin?
2 If you had to ask forgiveness for some though or action, what would it be?
3 If you had to ask forgiveness of a person, who would it be?
The suggestion is that if a person cannot answer these questions then it is probably false or irrational guilt.
True Guilt: A word on Confession -
Sincere confession that makes a lasting difference involves repentance and an admission of a persons’ inability to meet God’s Holy Standards without his help, it also involves a recognition of the futility of trying to earn God’s acceptance. Without it many teens may slip into a guilt confession cycle where by they use confession as an attempt to manipulate God and avoid the consequences of sin, confession then may serve as a means of ‘getting God of their backs.’
Coping with False guilt
In young people it will tend to be caused by one or a number of the following factors
Unrealistic Expectations, perfectionism is a disease of the 21st Century where self worth is measured through accomplishment and productivity. The danger being through the narrow thread of fulfilment that seldom satisfies – In dealing with this type of guilt the young person needs to be reminded that nothing and no one is perfect ours is a fallen world, they need permission to make mistakes
Legalism that takes rights and wrongs to an extreme and seeks absolute consistency, while many teens are attracted to its simplicity the down side is that many if not all are incapable of keeping up with rigidity of legalism. The simplicity of legalism can be over powering for teens but legalism is not the way of Jesus, allowing the teen to talk through possible moral scenarios where clear cut legalistic answers are not possible may help them refocus on Jesus who brings GRACE and Truth
Performance, many teens feel a sense of being on-stage, as if all of there inner feeling are exposed to the outside world teens are often too aware of their own short comings, this coupled with social pressure can produce immense feeling of guilt. There is a definite need to focus on being rather than doing with a teen who finds themselves in this category. Have them focus on friends who accept them for who they are – warts and all. It should be noted that expectations of parents on the young person should also be examined.
Faulty Conscience, in Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket encouraged Pinocchio to Let his conscience be his guide. A food sense of what is right and wrong is not a given but developed as we grow. Without Christ our conscience is fallen and therefore defective or un developed, while WWJD may be a nice slogan it also speaks of the need of us all to develop a Christian conscience and act in a manner that is Christ like, this can only come through the spiritual disciplines and should be encouraged
Evil, one of the major weapons of Satan in the lives of teenagers is an ability to create guilt, through accusation (job 1:6-11) and temptation; we are called to take our stand against Satan in the Knowledge that Jesus offers forgiveness.