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The Guilt Hangover

The Guilt Hangover

OCTOBER 6, 2015

/ Articles / The Guilt Hangover

A friend of mine a while back made the following Twitter-confession:

Sometimes it’s really hard to accept being loved. Sometimes, my husband makes me get out of bed, and then cleans the kitchen and makes me coffee while I’m in the shower. And I still have to tell myself “he’s not mad at me for oversleeping; he doesn’t think I’m lazy; he’s not impatient with me to finish here.” He’s never like that. Ever. He’s consistently tender. [why is my head so messed up?] I call this “guilt hangover” and it’s just stupid. God isn’t mad at me. My husband isn’t mad at me. So why am I afraid?

This situation isn’t unique to my friend, it is something that we all suffer from. I can name countless interactions with my husband and dear friends that, when boiled down, are me asking, “Really? Do you really, really, really love me?” while simultaneously making the statement, “I just don’t believe you…”

The phenomena of hearing judgment when someone intends love, is actually very common. My friend, in the midst of being one-way-loved (legitimately, in my opinion) is still convinced her husband is mad at her. Even when historically his actions toward her have been consistently loving (her words), she still just can’t believe it’s real, just can’t hear the I truly and really do love you for no other reason than I just do.


Because there are great depths of shame that reside in our hearts and we know just how abject and miserable we often are and can’t believe that the other person could actually love us; in fact, most of us have stories about people who have walked away when we’ve been at our worst. Each of us can probably recall the look of horror on someone’s face when we’ve shared that deep, dark secret. We can doubt love, because, in reality, others’ actions toward us have given us proof that it’s doubt-worthy. Even when we’ve been truly vulnerable, a similar response from the other is not always elicited. Of course, sometimes there is mutual vulnerability, and those special (rare) moments make all the difference. Unfortunately, sometimes those moments are more like emotional-one-night-stands. In truth, being vulnerable for me is, if I’m honest (vulnerable!), a shameful thing to do: because I’m opening my self up to rejection, and I’ve been rejected before.

The phenomena of hearing judgment when someone intends love, is actually very common.

What I need is not only mutual vulnerability, but (conjointly) immovability. Where the rubber meets the road is at the point of will you leave…even now? Will you reject me like the others? Will you stay with me here, in this mess that I am, and if it gets worse?

But Jesus looked at them and said ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26

Humans are a fickle bunch, but the good news is that God’s isn’t fickle. And we/I need to constantly hear, over and over and over again, just how un-fickle he is. Martin Luther writes in him commentary on Galatians, that we are so prone to disbelieve the activity of God toward us in Christ, in the Cross, that we need to be perpetually told that God truly, and unconditionally loves us–that we are truly justified by faith apart from works.

For if we lose the doctrine of justification, we lose simply everything. Hence the most necessary and important thing is that we teach and repeat this doctrine daily, as Moses says about his Law (Deut. 6:7). For it cannot be grasped or held enough or too much. In fact, though we may urge and inculcate it vigorously, no one grasps it perfectly or believes it with all his heart. So frail is our flesh and so disobedient to the spirit (emphasis, mine).

We are wounded and doubting creatures and need to be told things repeatedly: This God, this very God, the creator of heaven and Earth, loves you so much. But not only that, but also this: He will never leave you, nor forsake you no matter how dirty your past and how wounded or skeptical you are of Him. Thus the importance of the preacher proclaiming this very message every Sunday; to do otherwise is to starve the congregation, the hearers (both old and new) of this word of life. Even our own testimonies are important for demonstrating God’s activity in our life, less in terms of how impressive we’ve become since the initial encounter with Christ, and more in terms of the evidence of how far God will go to rescue just one, how willing He is move into the darkness of our heart and life. And, in this confession, see how far he’s gone for me, we are not only caused to be truly vulnerable with others but also immovable, there is nothing you can tell me that will make me leave you; I will sit with you here, in the depths.

It takes time to actual comprehend this truth from God and from those who do truly love us; the only solution I’ve found is to keep listening to the good, good Story about God’s unconditional, one-way love for us in Christ.

Originally posted at

Lauren R.E. Larkin

Lauren R.E. Larkin

Lauren R. E. Larkin is a graduate of Trinity School for Ministry where she earned an MDiv and STM focusing on Systematic Theolog

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