My Fight with Excessive Guilt and How I Beat It

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 was an eye-opener.

We had plenty of time for self-reflection and I admit that as a recovering overthinker, I sometimes overdosed on analyzing myself.

But, I don’t regret it. It helped me evolve as a woman, a Christian, and as a Life Coach. I started 2020 like most people, with so many ideas – mostly including launching coaching programs and offering workshops.

But, then our whole world was turned upside down. Before I knew it, I was launched into a whirlwind of inner conflict and guilt.

First, let me give you a little history.

Convicted Drop Out

I was raised in a Christian household and dedicated my life to becoming a minister at 16 years old. Yup, Sixteen!

I started thinking of doing it when I was only twelve but my mother encouraged me to wait a few years. So, on June 14, 1997, I was baptized and embarked on a life dedicated to studying and teaching the Bible. After graduation, I enrolled at the University of Michigan – Dearborn to pursue a degree in Accounting.

But, after a year in college, I dropped out.

One day I was sitting in Women’s Studies class reflecting on the two novels that I’d read in just one week. Final exams were approaching and I was laser-focused.

All of a sudden, I felt sick to my stomach. My head started spinning and my chest felt heavy. But, I wasn’t nervous about exams. I was holding a B average while also juggling two part-time jobs. I was a responsible teenager living the life of my dreams and loving it!

But, the night before I’d gone to Bible study and had absolutely no clue what we were discussing. I hadn’t read my Bible in almost a month. I hadn’t even looked at the schedule so I had no clue what book of the Bible we were even studying. And that ate me up.

So, at that moment I decided I was a failure at juggling my priorities. And I felt even worse because I loved being in college. For so many years, I had settled in my heart that I was only supposed to be focused on the ministry. So, I convicted myself of guilt and evicted my dreams from taking up residence in my head and my heart.

I completed the semester and didn’t enroll again after that. Instead, I got a job as a clerk for an accounting firm.

Close enough, I thought.

Guilted” to the Altar

A couple of years later I met a young man and fell in lust. Yes, I said lust, not love. It was a magnetic pull between us and not long after we met, I had committed the unthinkable…fornication.

(I don’t shy away from admitting my mistakes but as I type these words, I can’t believe I’m telling you this. We’re getting real personal!)

I was 20 years old.

I confessed my sins and was given loving support to recommit myself to abstinence. But, it wasn’t long before I gave in to my fleshly desires again. By this point, I was swimming in a pool of ecstasy, and every time a spiritual life jacket was thrown at me I swam defiantly in the opposite direction.

One day I was driving in the car with my Dad and without even looking in my direction he said “If you’re not going to stop, y’all need to go ahead and get married”.

My stomach sank into my feet.

I was starting to develop what I thought was love for the man I was dating, but I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to marry him just yet. But, oh well. My Dad had told me that it was the wisest course. And since I was already battling my guilt I accepted his advice. So, I started hinting around to my boyfriend that we should get married.

Next thing you know, he was proposing to me and we were planning a wedding.

Within weeks we eloped.

To say the marriage was tumultuous would be an understatement. Starting a marriage fueled by guilt only drove us into a cycle of mistrust, manipulation, and resentment.

Why am I spilling my guts to you about being a college dropout and a fornicator with a failed marriage?

Guilt Pop-Up

By 2020 I was living in harmony with what I was preaching.

The first marriage ended in divorce after eleven years and I went on a journey of self-discovery for three years. I moved to a different state, explored new hobbies, and started living my dreams as a blogger and freelance writer. I was enjoying my ministry and no longer felt guilt or regret. I was fully enjoying the journey of life.

I met a new man in 2017 who not only matched my spirituality but challenged me intellectually. Our courtship was pure and we married for love. I returned to my home state, left the Accounting industry, and started my own Life Coaching business.

Living a life of clarity, integrity, and purpose is not just a slogan or cliche for me. It’s how I live my life. Aligning my purpose with my passion has been fulfilling in many ways.

But when the pandemic broke out I found myself conflicted – again.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that ‘individuals must satisfy lower level deficit needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs’. Think of it this way: Even if you’re hungry, if you cut your finger you must first tend to the injury before getting something to eat.

Last year I felt a dual sense of responsibility – one of ministry and coaching. My first commitment has always been ministry. I have a solid hope in the future of this world and use my scriptural knowledge and insight to guide my decisions.

Keep on, then, seeking first the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33

But, I respect and understand that not everyone feels that way. I don’t make it a practice of mixing the Bible with my coaching unless the client specifically asks for it.

I minister using the Bible and I coach using NLP, Time Line Therapy, Universal Laws, and emotional intelligence (EI). I love coaching and take my impact and influence on my client’s life seriously.

The more I heard and felt the emotional and mental struggles of my clients and people in general, I felt my passion and compassion pulling me into Coaching to fill their immediate needs.

That’s when guilt decided to pop up for a return visit.

Me: Let me help these people with their emotional and mental needs.

Also Me: You must first seek the Kingdom.

Me: What about people who don’t yet respect the Bible and still need personal attention? I’m qualified to assist them, too.

Also Me: What about them? Stay focused on the Kingdom.

I spent the majority of the year battling the same nagging feelings I had as an eighteen-year-old college student. My self-talk sounded like a soap opera starring every version of myself from past mistakes and the co-stars of Self Acceptance, Self Awareness, Self Compassion, and EI were fighting for their shining moment.

Thankfully, I reconciled feelings of guilt and emerged with Clarity, Integrity, and Purpose.

Guilt – Get Behind Me!

Guilt is a Sign of Growth

If you’re feeling guilty it’s a sign that you are becoming more self-aware. The moment you realize you’re not doing something right you have the opportunity to correct the behavior. You are bringing meaning into your decisions, actions, and thoughts.

Use Guilt as Insight

Once you realize you feel guilty about something, take a second to reflect on the proper course of action – the decision to align yourself with who you want to be. Take note of why you feel guilty.

Be intentional about choosing an action that will bring you closer to feeling more whole and complete.

Acknowledge that Guilt is linked to Fear

At the core of your feelings of guilt is fear. Maybe you’re afraid of losing someone, changing your core values, or not being in control. Rather than ignore your fears, take a moment to acknowledge them. Instead of just returning to the old behavior, decide what you’re going to do about it. Do you need to apologize to someone? Get more organized? Focus on what you can control.

Take action towards releasing the fear to ease the guilt.

Don’t Allow Others to Exploit Your Guilt

Manipulation is contingent on you feeling guilty. Even people who mean well could use your guilt to persuade you into doing what they want you to do. So, it’s essential to stop and reflect on your values and beliefs. Having excessive guilt could cause you to backslide into old behaviors or do something that you don’t really want to do.

Validate Your Feelings

Did you apologize to someone and not get the desired response? That lingering guilt can cause you to doubt yourself or even feel worse. Resist the urge to get upset or angry. Instead, settle into your intention and purpose. As long as you genuinely feel remorse, rest assured that you’ve done your part. You can only control your emotions and actions.

Guilt Cannot be your Motivator

Any time you allow feeling bad or guilt to motivate you, you’re setting yourself up for a domino effect of negative emotions. You might feel self-assured in the beginning but eventually, anger, sadness, guilt, resentment, and self-doubt will settle in. Instead, allow self-compassion, gratitude, and love to be your motivator.

Uninhibited Joy and Contentment

My attachment to excessive guilt tormented me for too long. In hindsight, I realize my college days were an opportunity for me to learn time management, discipline, and following through on commitment. All I had to do was adjust my schedule when necessary. Sometimes priorities shift temporarily; give yourself some grace.

Getting married at twenty-one to cure my lack of self-control was like jumping from the skillet to the frying pan (as my Grandmother would say). I traded in one bad situation for another one wrapped in a white gold marquise-cut diamond. I learned a lot of hard lessons from that one critical error in judgment.

I don’t regret it though because it made me who I am today.

Being a Life Coach has empowered me to be more in tune with my own emotions and mindset. Using the same strategy I use with my clients, I reconciled my inner conflict between ministry and coaching. As I said in a recent video, at the core of a perceived conflict is a common factor.

At the core of both Ministry and Coaching is my love of helping people.

I’ve been blessed to have insight, experience, and training that allows me to excel as a minister and coach.

The guilt was a sign that I needed to be more organized and intentional in how I use my time. Whether I’m ministering or coaching, I let my light shine by being present in the moment and giving my all.

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart”

Colossians 3:23 (The Living Bible)

My life, my gifts, and my ministry (which includes coaching). No one can make me feel guilty unless I allow them to – and that won’t happen anymore.

In 2021, I can finally say I released myself from the burden of excessive guilt, inhibition, and self-doubt. Now, I choose to live with Clarity, Integrity, and Purpose. It’s so liberating!

What will you release yourself from feeling guilty over today?
I want to know.