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Worship Materials: Guilt, Shame and Forgiveness

From the Celebrating Mystery collection

THEME               The path to destruction and the path to new life.


  1. Guilt can become the major obstacle to the transformation of behavior.
  2. To break the cycle of guilt, we must begin by forgiving ourselves and other people.
  3. Finding someone to blame does not enable us to leave the past behind.
  4. We all need to take responsibility for our own actions, give ourselves permission to forgive ourselves and to let go of our guilt.
  5. St Paul said ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8/1). Perhaps this could be paraphrased:
    ‘there is no guilt in those who are truly in touch with divinity.’
  6. As perfect love casts out fear, so forgiveness casts out guilt.
    Therefore accept God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself and forgive others.
  7. To accept forgiveness is also to accept the necessity of a change of  heart and of actions of restitution and reconciliation.
  8. If we say we could not possibly forgive another person, we are really saying that we are getting too much mileage out of feeling the innocent victim to give up that role. Yet from the perspective of the point of stillness we can observe the terrible effect our anger has on our psyche and how our unforgiving spirit is destroying our life-force.
  9. Mutual forgiveness between human beings always involves an acknowledgement that no human beings and no relationships are perfect.
  10. Punishing criminals without also offering a program of rehabilitation often results in confirming them in a life of crime.
  11. Revenge does nothing to create a better world; indeed if we seek  revenge we release destructive forces within ourselves and may well start a cycle of violence.
  12. When we refuse to forgive another person it is ourselves that we are wounding,
  13. The best way to deal with our guilty past is to clothe past frailty with love and learning.
  14. The first step to freedom is to be able to identify who or what put us under restraint.
  15. The past is only a problem when we haven’t learnt to forgive ourselves and others.
  16. Liberation from guilt is a springboard for action.
  17. The commitment to change is the transforming element of repentance.
  18. Anger suppressed destroys.
  19. True forgiveness between human beings always involves an acknowledgement that it takes two people to create a dysfunctional relationship.
  20. No-one ever grew beyond guilt by heaping guilt upon themselves or by blaming other people or a devil.
  21. The test of the depth of our faith lies in our willingness to forgive those who persecute us
  22. Forgiveness can be the gateway to a whole new world.
  23. When we forgive we begin to heal unjust hurts which have been inflicted upon us.



O God of forgiveness, help us to develop a forgiving attitude towards others, lest we harden our hearts and in so doing find it impossible to accept the forgiveness which you so freely offer to us.



We are always part of the other. (BL)

At each journey’s ending point. (BL)

Sowing limits what we harvest. (BL)

Recalling all our ancient hurts. (BL)

When we feel all weighed down with guilt. (BL)

Repaying Force. (BL)

If passion urges us. (BL)


No outcasts were condemned by Christ.

I will talk to my heart.

I wash my hands.

God of forgiveness.

As we give we shall receive. (STS1)

For wrongs of the past. (STS1)

Many people die in anguish. (STS1)

Your cross provides a window. (STS1)

How many times must I forgive? (STS2)

Christ Jesus praying from the cross. (STS2)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications


Forgiveness is our most precious gift. (BL)

In the letting go. (BL)

God has mercy on us all. (STS1)



Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son,* God’s forgiveness does not have to be earned, only accepted. Yet our unwillingness to forgive others can be an obstacle to our being open to receiving forgiveness. As Jesus prayed “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” In other words the unforgiving heart is not open to receiving forgiveness.           *Luke 15:11-32



All of us have experienced mental or physical suffering at the hands of other people. But each of us has also brought suffering to others.

However, when we are unwilling to forgive, we deny the essence of God’s loving-kindness, and deprive ourselves of the healing for which our life-force longs.


Forgiveness is a complex process of letting go which takes time and effort. It involves letting go of our desire to suppress our painful memories, our anger and our shame and being willing to meet them face to face with love.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.

Forgiveness comes through ceasing to view oneself as an unlovable person, a person whose insecurity leads them to condemn others.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.

Forgiveness comes through letting go of the illusion that we are superior to other people in our beliefs, attitudes or actions.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.

Forgiveness comes through listening to the story of our oppressors and experiencing something of their hurt.

Forgiveness grows as we begin to discover something good, something of God in every human being.

Forgiveness develops as we share our own

vulnerability with them.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.

Forgiveness comes through seeing every experience as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and others rather than remain a prisoner of our own history.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.

Forgiveness comes through letting go of the idea that it is solely a matter of feeling sorry for what we have done.

So as well as apologizing we seek to change our attitudes and behavior, exploring possibilities of righting past wrongs.


Forgiveness is our most precious gift:

the most Christ-like blessing we can share.




We need closure”

Came the strident anguish cry

Demanding punishment.

The right punishment for the crime,

The right explanation of why the loved-one died

Would appear to provide closure.

But ‘no’ that is not the case

Closure is an internal process

A letting go of anger,

A letting go of the desire to punish,

A letting go of the need to know.

What better example

Than the words of Jesus from the cross

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”

and “into your hands, I commend my spirit”.

For there is no closure without forgiveness,

No closure without the dead being allowed

To rest in peace.



If only!

If only!

If only!

Again and again these mind chains shackle us

To a poisoned past,

An emaciated present

And a hopeless future.

But as Jean-Paul Sartre said “Freedom is what you do with

What has been done to you”.

The ‘if onlys’ are a dangerous fantasy world

Within which lies

The bog of self pity ‑

The mindset of the crippled victim.

Jesus said “no one takes my life away from me,

I give it up of my own free will.” *

In other words I am in control of what my

History does to my mind.

I am not the one who haplessly

Lets history destroy their peace

And their hope.

Then and only then

Will my I AM replace

My ‘if onlys’.                           * John 10:18



When I hang upon my cross

What has happened to my divinity,

My sacredness?

Must I deny my inner worth and instead

Nurture my anger,

Or can it be a time of awakening

To the wounds of others?

Can I say with Christ

“Forgive them for they know not what they do”

To me or anyone else?

This cannot be my cry until

I have walked the way of transforming mystery,

Walked through the darkness of my soul’s night

Have come to the point of understanding my wounds

And binding them with love.

Then and only then can I come to the place

Of transforming oneness,

The place of compassion informed by empathy,

A place where my small cross becomes

Part of God’s Cross,

Where my cry becomes part of Christ’s cry

And my forgiveness becomes part of

The humanizing and all inclusive energy of the Cosmos.



1.If God’s forgiveness is always available and all that stands between us and forgiveness is our reluctance to accept it, then how appropriate are our continual requests to God to forgive us and to have mercy on us?


2.Would it not be better if we rejoiced in accepting God’s forgiveness and prayed that God would help us to forgive ourselves, to forgive others and to change our style of living?


3.Do you agree that it is immoral to make people feel guilty, so that we  might grant them forgiveness?  What are the implications of all this for our worship?


Celebrating Mystery Logo

LOGO NOTE: At the heart of the mystery all the separate boxes disappear and all is one, all is love.

Text and graphic © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.


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