Marja Bergen

author, mental health advocate, follower of Christ

Dealing with guilt and shame

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2


This was King David’s prayer for forgiveness when the prophet Nathan drew his attention to his having committed adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed in battle. Have you ever done something wrong that you needed to pray as expressively as this? You very possibly might have. I have. And I’m doing so again today.

Although I talk with God most mornings and let him lead me, I miss some days. On those days – as happened a short time ago – I might go my own way instead of God’s way. I might respond to my pain and anger, instead of God. That can be serious. Last weekend I must not have been listening to God when I was writing my story.

In writing, I hoped to stop the past from haunting me. I also had a need to express how my life had been affected by events. But It turned out all wrong. Hurting others had not been part of the plan.

The outcome did not bring the peace I had hoped for. Instead, what I sent brought further pain – pain in the form of guilt and shame. Guilt for letting my emotions lead me. Shame that I was a person who could do such a thing. Shame for being so impulsive.

Guilt and shame can do terrible things to one such as me. The situation I had brought on left feelings of hopelessness. How can one poorly thought-out act cause such potential damage? How can I possibly right the wrong I have done? For a couple of days, it was hard to go on.

To all concerned: Please know that I regret the way my story was presented. Please accept my sincere apology for any hurt or damage I may have caused. I pray for the healing of anyone negatively affected.


Dear readers: You have heard the story of my current struggle. Consider how you feel today about yourself – about what you might have done and who you are. Are you, like me, living with guilt or shame?

Guilt is the dreadful feeling you get when you know you’ve done something wrong. Shame is when you internalize guilt and begin to believe you’re a bad person. Both guilt and shame are powerful emotions that can negatively affect our ability to move forward in life. We can easily get stuck. The only thing to do is to make amends in whatever ways we can. We need to ask God to forgive us, ask those we hurt to forgive us, forgive ourselves.

I was reminded: Yes, I have sinned, but there is One who understands, One who knows my heart, One who knows who I truly am, One who knows my pain.

The following message came from a friend. It helped me a great deal. I share it here, hoping that you too will be helped with any shame or guilt issues you might be experiencing:

“Know that you are first and foremost a child of God. You are called by “his” name and it really doesn’t matter what people think about “our” name. I pray that you will keep hearing the voice of God affirming his love for you and bringing you to a place of safety and security in him.”


1 Comment

  1. Oh, thank you for this..
    It is as if God sent this / you / just for me.. He of course knows what weighs heavily on my heart right now, and this is just what I needed to hear,, that I am not alone in these battles… that the perspective I am taking and the way I am looking at things needs to change.
    Between my bipolar, my BPD and my total lack of self esteem , it is so hard to think of myself as anything more than a failure. . that I constantly let those around me down, , but more importantly , that I let down God..
    Honestly, I feel so much shame that I put so much on Christ on the cross because of my failings (SIN)..
    Thank you again.. so much to think and pray on.

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