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Dealing with guilt and shame through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

By Cecily Markland

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, May 1 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Guilt is pretty easy to come by. There seem to be reasons daily to pick up a little more guilt and hang on to it for as long as possible.

We berate ourselves for being behind on our scrapbooking, canning or quilting. We feel guilty for things we did as children and things our own children have done. Then we add a few genuine unkind words, a commandment we failed to keep faithfully and a bad habit or two, and we have plenty to feed the fires of guilt for eons to come.

Yet guilt that is inappropriate or not dealt with quickly “robs us of our joy and all the delight we should be feeling in this life and in the gospel,” speaker and author Kim Gibbs says on her CD, titled, “Giving Up the Guilt” (Covenant Communications, $11.99).

She gives the following steps for overcoming guilt:

1. Acknowledge the wrong. This includes confessing in prayer or to a bishop, if necessary. “Heavenly Father already knows what you have done. He wants us to come to him with all of it,” Gibbs says.

2. Feel godly sorrow. Unlike shame, which is being disgusted with ourselves, godly sorrow is having a broken heart and contrite spirit, admitting a mistake has been made and looking for what can be done from here.

3. Give it up. Jesus Christ has done his part. Our part comes with being willing to leave our guilt on the altar and turn it over to him who has already paid the price.

4. Accept God’s forgiveness. “Believe the Atonement is for you,” Gibbs says. “There is no expiration date on the Atonement.”

5. Forgive yourself. After taking the right steps to access forgiveness from our Heavenly Father, we need to forgive ourselves. “Let it go,” says Gibbs.

6. Make restitution. Apologize and make amends in whatever ways possible.

Ultimately, to become guilt free, “Keep on trying,” Gibbs says. “Heavenly Father is pleased with any effort we make.”

Cecily Markland is a freelance writer, book editor, publicist and author of "Hope: One Mile Ahead" and the children’s book, "If I Made a Bug." She owns Inglestone Publishing and produces a calendar of LDS events in Arizona at www.cecilymarkland.com.

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