When a person goes through depression, often it is because of inappropriate or excessive guilt feelings. Guilt or self-blame can stem from a variety of sources. Surroundings and circumstances can overwhelm us, and problems become so internalized that the person often blames themselves for everything that is going wrong in their lives. This self-blame is a behavior that can cause ongoing bouts with depression and must be consciously put to an end. The awareness of this cycle of guilt can help victims of this emotional sabotage to overcome and lessen the effects of this line of thinking. In other words, the person should stop punishing themselves internally and realize that these problems are external.
When I was a child, although I had never been diagnosed with any clinical depression, I was often overcome with deep depression that would cause me to lay in bed for days and pull the covers over my head or I would walk around and go through the motions of life, unable to focus. I probably was clinically depressed, but back in those days, to go to a “shrink” or get counseling was only for “crazy” people. It was a point of shame that you kept quiet about. The source of my depression may have been that my home was a battleground. My parents constantly fought and pressured us to maintain an outward appearance of perfection. They were so image conscious that it was out of the question to get any help for me. As a result, in my mind, small issues took on mountainous proportions.
If I got a bad grade in school or someone didn’t speak favorably to me, it would follow me for days or months. I would internalize these happenings as being my fault somehow and could not seem to move because I had suffered such a huge blow to my personal worth. I had such low self-esteem, that I would be paralyzed by any perceived imperfections. In addition to this, unfortunately, the religious people I hung around after becoming a Christian, seemed threatened by my education and took any opportunity to let me know that “you aren’t so smart”. So in a nutshell, any external views about who I was, took on greater weight because I really did not know my own identity.
The Need for Fulfillment
The need to be perfect can often cause a person to become depressed. News flash– no one who has walked this earth was perfect but Christ himself. Life and learning happens to all of us, and unless we are Christ, we come to this earth to learn about life through living. If a person has lost or damaged a relationship, lost a job, made a big financial blunder, still remains unmarried after many years, or feels awful because they don’t seem to fit into a group, they should not let this stop them from enjoying life. People must make the choice to withdraw from life. The idea that because certain things seem out of present reach, therefore, life is not worth living, creates a motivational blockade to actually reaching personal life goals. This type of thinking only kills motivation and hope. Both of these are needed to reach desired goals. The key term above is “present reach”. All of the things you are looking for in life are reachable and obtainable, but they are just not currently in your grasp. Besides some of the things you may discover are not essential to your personal fulfillment. You will find someone who loves you; you will eventually find that job, you can build finances again; and instead of trying to fit in, be original and find your own way in life.
Guilt and self-blame are totally inappropriate when there is nothing that a person can do about his or her circumstances. If one day you wake up and an unpredictable event happens in your life, realize that you did not choose this event or circumstance, and therefore guilt is not a proper emotion here, and should therefore be rejected and eliminated as part of any emotional energy.
The Need for Significance
Feeling insignificant also leads to depression. Significance is a basic human need that all people have, however, when it is given too much weight, anything that is perceived as a roadblock toward reaching that personal significance is seen as failure. Understand that your significance is based on being a child of God. Significance is defined as the quality of being worthy of attention or importance. We are all worthy of attention because we are all God’s creation. Each one of us was put on this earth to be used by God in our own particular way. You and I are not meant to be exactly alike. God created each of us for a particular purpose, and just because, at this point in your life, you have not hit upon that particular purpose, does not mean you are of little worth. Our presence in this world matters. It matters to your friends and family and to the most important being in this universe—God. He will help you find purpose and is keenly interested in your welfare. Even though the world cannot see him, he exists. The evidence of the divine design is all around.
Feelings of low self-worth cause a person to be fragile, so that any slight that is perceived or real becomes more than genuine in its effect on the person’s demeanor or psyche. In other words, even if the hurt is only slight or can be rectified, the receiver of the hurt truly believes the person meant to hurt them and therefore the hurt lingers and takes on huge proportions. The event has become more than just an event, but a classification of who they are as a person.
When a person breaks biblical principles, it is realistic to expect to feel a sense of guilt and blame. Yet, inappropriate guilt refuses to accept the forgiveness of God. Once a person has repented of a wrong and done all they can to make any restitutions, the blood of Christ is present to cleanse all sin and guilt. When a person feels an inappropriate level of guilt, it comes from a cruel place inside that is unforgiving of any mistakes and simply punishes the person for their past error. This type of self-punishment does not come from a godly place. Personal forgiveness is an important key for emerging out of this valley of guilt and blame. Finally, understand that you are not perfect, nor does any other normal person expect you to be perfect. Additionally, understand that life is a journey of self-discovery and a person’s uncovering of short comings, mistakes and personal blunders can 1) be rectified and 2) become stepping stones for greater achievement and a deeper walk with God.