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What does the Bible say about shame and regret?

Have you ever felt shame or regret over something from your past? Maybe you're ashamed of gossiping about a friend or you regret not going to see a loved one in the hospital who later passed away? We all experience shame and regret, but is it right that we continue feeling that shame and regret—like a lifelong punishment for our sins? Let's look at what the Bible says about shame and regret.

The Fall of Man

Adam and Eve must have felt shame and regret after disobeying God and being banished from their home. They had a perfect, sinless relationship with God while they were in the Garden of Eden. After they ate the forbidden fruit, they lost everything. (See Genesis 3.) They messed up their relationship with God by inviting sin into lives, and they were kicked out of the Garden as a result. Due to their disobedience, all of humanity is now born into sin, separated from God, and destined for hell. Talk about the biggest regret ever!

Praise the Lord, the story doesn't end there. Despite Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God had already created the perfect plan to bring all humanity back into relationship with Him—through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Still, during Adam and Eve’s life, they must have felt ashamed of what they'd done, and they certainly regretted being kicked out of paradise due to their sin.

The Shame & Regret of Peter

The apostle Peter had just told Jesus that he was ready to die with Him (Matthew 26:35), yet on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas, Peter denied that he ever knew Him. Peter had been secretly afraid of losing his own life (John 18:15-27). After his third denial, Peter “went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:32).

Have you ever felt so ashamed of something that you had to leave the room and cry? That's how Peter was feeling too. After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter’s faith grew, and he encouraged the other disciples just as Jesus had already told him he would (Luke 22:32). Peter later grew to become one of the head leaders of the early church as recorded in Acts.

Peter may have been ashamed and regretful over his betrayal, but Jesus forgave him and restored him. Jesus never condemned Peter by saying, “You disowned me three times! You said you'd die with me, but clearly you were lying.” No, Jesus did not say anything like this to Peter.

Instead, Jesus gave him the task of shepherding His people and proclaiming the Gospel of salvation. Peter eventually overcame his feelings of shame and regret, but it was only with Christ's grace. As he grew in his faith over the years, Peter accepted that he had been forgiven and that he was not condemned by his past. God’s forgiveness covered his sins of betrayal. Peter was able to experience the release of shame and regret once he understood that he'd been forgiven.

How can I stop feeling shame and regret?

Remind yourself that God’s forgiveness covers our past sins, so you do not need to feel shame and regret over what once was. When you're born again by accepting Jesus, you're a new creation in Christ, no longer defined by your past (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:15-22). 1 John 1:9 tells us that when we confess our sins to God, He will forgive—and that "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).

Don't dwell on past shame and regret, because when God has forgiven our sins, they are completely forgiven, and we aren't associated with them anymore (Isaiah 43:18; Ephesians 1:7). 1 John 1:7 tells us that Jesus has washed them away! You are eternally secure in Christ and don’t let yesterday's regrets distort today or tomorrow. You ought to learn from the past, yes, but holding on to old regrets and shame will only hinder the future that God has planned for you (Philippians 3:13-14).

Satan would love to tempt you with a good, old-fashioned pity party over how "awful" of a person you used to be. He would love to freeze your faith, make you unproductive in your walk with Christ, make you feel like a failure. If you're always dwelling on past regrets and shame, you're not going to see anything good about today—least of all that God has already forgiven you for all those past sins.

But the truth is that you are NOT a failure, but a conqueror through Christ’s love (Romans 8:37)! Not only has God forgiven all your past sins, but Jesus has covered any present and future sins as well! There is no need to experience shame and regret over them. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

Live Life with No Regrets

God has forgiven our past; it's time that we do the same. We don’t have to feel regret or shame over the past because we've been completely forgiven. We have a new life in Christ, and we can start living that new life devoted to serving God (Romans 6:4; Hebrews 12:2).

Our past does not define us. God has a hopeful future for us all (Jeremiah 29:11), but we can only move forward if we choose to let go of past shame and regret.

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TL;DR

We all experience shame or regret over past sins at some point, but the Bible says that if we have accepted salvation through Jesus, our sins have been forgiven (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 8:1). We aren't defined by our sinful past because we're new creations in Christ, made to serve Him faithfully (2 Corinthians 5:17). Temptations to dwell on past shame and regret will only freeze our faith into immobility. God has forgiven our past; it's time we do the same. God has a hopeful future for us all (Jeremiah 29:11), but we can only move forward if we choose to let go of past shame and regret. Instead of focusing on our past regrets, let’s focus instead on the new life we have in Jesus.

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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