The Persistence of Guilt
Someone recently came to this site from the search question, “Is it a sin to think about hurting someone?” The question really struck me.
I don’t think this is an emotionally neutral question. I don’t think someone ponders it idly, as if considering whether or not to engage in it later on. “I might want to think about hurting someone later. Let me check to see if someone out there can tell me whether or not that’s a sin first.” I suppose it’s possible. It might also be a question of knowing what’s good for someone but feeling unable to follow through because it might hurt, but the phrase, “think about”, makes me think that this isn’t quite right either.
Let me propose a hypothetical situation. I suspect that this searcher came, having been in some kind of conflict with someone. Maybe it was a single instance, or maybe it was a series of things that had been happening over a long time. Either way, it made her (or him) angry or frustrated, and she wanted to hurt the person in return. That desire kept popping up, and she’d think about hurting the person, even when she didn’t want to. But that not wanting to keeps cropping up, too. In fact, it’s not just not wanting to, it’s feeling like she shouldn’t – she’s not supposed to.
Does this seem to fit? Would this produce an internet search for whether it’s a sin to think about hurting someone?
If this is true, though, then the assumption underneath is that it’s already a sin. He already feels like he’s done something wrong, and he’s not looking for an answer to a hypothetical question, but a confirmation that he’s been bad or a release from the guilt and fear that’s already there. He wants someone to tell him he’s okay.
Whoever you are… you are okay.
I could cite Bible verses telling you that there’s no condemnation for the believer, even if you have sinned, particularly if you’ve confessed, but you probably already know them. And I don’t think it would help anyway because even if you understood them and took them in, the feeling of guilt would probably still hang around, and you’d still be there with this nagging sense that you’re bad.
What this may be, however, is an opportunity that God is offering to you. That sin is forgiven, you probably understand. What you might not understand is why you still feel guilty even when you’re forgiven. The discrepancy between the two is something worth exploring with God. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is inviting you to talk with Him (and others) about how you learned and internalized this kind of guilt reaction in your heart, even though Jesus already died for your sins.
Whoever is forgiven much, loves much. Perhaps you haven’t experienced a lot of forgiveness directly. Perhaps God is inviting you to seek forgiveness directly from good, safe people that you have wronged in the past or when it happens. As you experience forgiveness so directly, perhaps you might internalize more soundly that you really are okay.
Maybe I’m wrong about where this all came from. It’s pretty hard to tell from just a search entry. But maybe it might help someone else who really is coming from this place. Here’s hoping that God’s love gets in where it needs to.