The Reality of Remorse

I recently read something on guilt that I wanted to 1) commit to memory and 2) share with all of you. Since posting the information to my blog helps me to accomplish both objectives, this week’s update is more about learning than discerning. My hope is that the former will lead to the latter as you open your divine textbook and meditate on these words from 2 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 10:

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

I never understood the difference between the two kinds of sorrow mentioned in this verse until I read the book Boundaries with Teens by Dr. John Townsend. According to the author, the Godly sorrow that the apostle Paul was referring to is remorse and worldly sorrow is guilt. (see p. 40)

Townsend went on to say that guilt (i.e., the feeling of self-condemnation over doing something that hurts another person) is not a helpful emotion because it is centered on our failure instead of the other person’s pain. Remorse, in contrast, is a solution-oriented approach that frees us to be sad and to undo the damage that we have done.

Knowing that guilt is never a good substitute for letting go makes me wonder: Why do some people hold onto it with fists so full of self-condemnation that they will never get a grip on grace?

Life is too short to live with regret so let’s not waste another minute on unproductive thoughts. Instead, the next time we are tempted to nail ourselves to a cross of condemnation, let’s remember that those who know Jesus have no right to take away from what he did to make sure that every sinner can be redeemed.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1