How Do We Overcome Guilt?

By Garrett R

One evening, a roommate of mine and I were heading home after getting some dinner, and on the way we passed over a high bridge. As we were going by I happened to notice a woman approach the railing of the bridge. I was a little confused as I watched this woman take her shoes off, and my confusion turned to concern and worry as she began to climb over the railing. As we were passing she looked into the car, straight into my eyes, and did something that I’ll never forget–she smiled.

We continued in shock. Suddenly I thought, “We need to do something!” So I told my friend to pull over. We pulled over quickly and jumped out of the car. We stood there as my friend and I asked each other what we should do. We yelled at someone to call the police and then we turned to run back, but we were too late. She was gone.
My heart sank. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t believe it. We got back into the car and waited as the police sirens began to ring in our ears. As we drove home, I was filled with feelings of regret and sadness. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I had always thought that in a moment like that I would be the one to keep my head and know how to help, reacting just in time, jumping to the rescue just like in the movies. Unfortunately in that moment I realized that life wasn’t a movie.

We arrived at our apartment and I went to my bed and cried. I should have done more. I should have said something. I should have stopped the car. I should have done this, I should have done that. I could have caught her hands. Something! I could have done something more. But I didn’t.

I had never felt so powerless in my life.

For the next few nights that smile haunted my dreams. I couldn’t get the image of it out of my head. The guilt was unbearable and I rehearsed over and over what I should have done. I cursed myself for being weak and slow, for not reacting, for anything and everything. All I could think of during those days was how it was my fault.
I talked with others about my feelings and my concerns and they all, without fail, told me that I was not to blame. But I couldn’t believe them. These thoughts kept running through my head over and over, and the scene replayed again and again. Finally, one night, I got down on my knees as I was going to bed and prayed. I addressed God and began to speak out loud. This time, as I prayed, it wasn’t so much of a “I’m a horrible person, please forgive me” prayer. It was a “I’m hurting. I need your help. Please help me.” I had finally turned to the last person that I believed could help me.

I pleaded that Christ would help me be freed from this guilt. I had grown up being told that He could. I opened my heart as I never had before. I explained my difficulty in forgiving myself, my desire for the opportunity to make things right, and my feelings of complete and utter inadequacy.

As I was praying, I felt something lift. I could see the light. I no longer felt that no one could help me, because He did. From that moment on, I began to see that I was not held responsible for the actions of another. I knew that I couldn’t make it better, but I had turned my pain over to the One who could make it right, the One who, in the end, will make all things right. And because I had done so, I was able to move on. The days again grew bright and I could smile again. It still was a process, and occasional twinges of guilt came back. But when that happened, I turned once again to God. I came to know Him, and I also learned that He knew me. As I reflect on those days I’m no longer filled with sorrow and guilt, but with joy and hope. I know without a doubt that ALL things can be made right in Christ.

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