How to Overcome Feeling Regret and Shame From Past Mistakes

by Crystal McDowell · Print Print · Email Email

It’s possible to come into salvation accepting Christ’s forgiveness and still struggle with regret from past mistakes. Many believers have difficulty moving forward in their Christian faith because of shame. However, just because we may feel a certain way doesn’t mean that God is holding us hostage to our past. It’s time for us to M-O-V-E O-N towards walking in faith and not regret.

M – Meditate on the Scriptures

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8). 

The scriptures speak life to those who are willing to listen. When you are struggling with regret and shame, it’s very important to immediately open up God’s word for direction. God isn’t condemning you, He wants you to be free. Satan is the accuser of the saints and he will attempt to stunt your growth in Christ with regret. Meditate on Romans 8:1 and memorize it until it becomes your immediate response to thoughts of guilt.

O – Own up to your faults

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

While you are forgiven from God, you may still need to seek the forgiveness of those you have hurt in the past. Some people may freely accept your apology and give forgiveness; while others may not receive you at all. Your responsibility is to be genuine and open to what God may have you to do. By refusing to cover your sins, you allow the Lord to help you clear out the clutter in your heart and mind that may keep you from walking free from regret.

How to Overcome Feeling Regret and Shame From Past Mistakes

V – Value your freedom in Christ

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. His death, burial, and resurrection happened in order that everyone who puts their faith in Him will walk in freedom. He didn’t die so that we would grovel in our sins with regret, guilt, or shame. The Lord wants His people to boldly and courageous walk in the freedom that He gives generously.

E – Embrace giving and receiving forgiveness

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). 

In your new freedom there will be opportunities for you to give and receive forgiveness. It’s not about your ability to forgive, but rather your choice to give and receive forgiveness. Our feelings will come and go—the Holy Spirit will help your heart and mind to change over time. Forgiveness is a matter of obedience and submission to God to forgive just as He forgives you.

O – Open up and share your struggles

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

 It’s important to be involved and engaged with a body of believers to help you grow up in your faith. Only Jesus was pure and without sin—the rest of us have been marred with our own sinfulness in addition to suffering due to the sins of others. By sharing your struggles with regret, you may find that others have been on that path before and can support you through the journey of healing and restoration.

N – Navigate your thoughts on Christ

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest” (Hebrews 3:1).

Who is this Jesus whom we love? He’s compassionate and willing to help us overcome our feelings of shame and regret. When we intentionally focus our thoughts on His love for us—we are strengthened to let go of the guilt that hinders our faith. We move forward to accomplish great things in His name without heaviness.

Are you ready to move on?

We were saved from our sins in the past, present, and future. Jesus’ death took care of all our regret, shame and guilt of the past. Our decision to trust will propel us towards an exhilarating freedom from sin. Move on past the past and press forward in faith!

More to read: Bible Verses About Overcoming

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits September 1, 2014 at 9:06 pm

Good article Crystal and an important topic. Don’t you believe regret and guilt remain sometimes, after supposed salvation, as a result of an incomplete understanding of the Cross? When those who claim to be saved speak of past “mistakes” which still plague them, there are these red lights which start flashing in my spirit.

“Mistakes” are like turning on the wrong street on my way to work, or forgetting to take the garbage out at night. Do we want to say it was also a “mistake” that we robbed a convenience store or cheated on our spouse? How about abandoning our family. Are those last three simply “mistakes”, or is there a difference between any of these examples? Or, are they all simply “mistakes”?

And why wouldn’t we be plagued by guilt if we counted cheating on our spouse as simply a mistake? As a Christian psychologist I would counsel people to “deal” with their “mistakes” by first understanding and then acknowledging that these previous “mistakes” are sin. Unfortunately that word “sin” is not understood by most unsaved.

Sin is breaking God’s Commandment and rebellion against His Law. Christians sometimes know this but we cannot expect unbelievers to know the same. They do not understand the depth of their rebellion problem and the weight of condemnation which they are under. They have broken a just Judge’s Law and are under God’s wrath and judgment.

They are on a path to hell and destruction and it should be terrifying. If they have not “dealt” properly with their “mistakes” you bet they should feel guilty and have regrets, because many have false conversions never having been told the simple truth I have just explained. Never offered the evidence of their position, and offered the Only solution to their plight.

That solution, as you know, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is confession to God of their “sin”, their “rebellion” to God’s Law(not their mistakes), crying out to God for His mercy, and trusting Christ as their Savior, believing in His sacrifice on the Cross as the payment for their “sins”(not mistakes), and believing in their heart that God raised Jesus bodily from the grave.

There is salvation. Understanding in their spirit and soul that Jesus’s sacrifice was sufficient to “take away” their sin, not merely a covering of sin(see Heb. 9:28). Their sin is not covered(God Forbid). That is what Jesus did away with. There is no need of goats and bulls any longer as a covering for our sins. Our sins are “Gone!” through the Cross. We must pray and speak in order to bring these folks to understand the Cross. Real salvation and beginning a process of unfolding a glimpse of an understanding of the Cross is essential to freedom from guilt. As we hide inside of the Cross…it is there that healing and righteousness takes place. Not our righteousness but His…imputed to me as I am hid with Him…in the Cross.

Unfortunately, many times salvation is sold as a soft story about God’s love and forgiveness and saying “The Prayer” and all will be well. And here is the important point. Many do, and are not saved, because they do not understand their “sin” problem nor the Redemptive Work of the Cross. As a result guilt often remains and rightly so.

I love the way this translation renders Ps 32 you quoted from. I think the whole Psalm is instructive but especially vs 5. Please read it in the light of these thoughts:

Psalm 32 New Living Translation (NLT)

Psalm 32
A psalm[a] of David.

1 Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,[b]
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
3 When I refused to confess my sin,
my body wasted away,
and I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Interlude
5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Interlude
6 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
7 For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory. Interlude
8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.
9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
11 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

32:Title Hebrew maskil. This may be a literary or musical term.
32:2 Greek version reads of sin. Compare Rom 4:8.”




rpsabq September 5, 2019 at 5:32 am

except sex offenders.


Jack Wellman September 5, 2019 at 10:10 am

No, all who come to Christ (former sex offenders included!) can be forgiven and there will be no shame for those who trust in Christ.


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