Guilt is no respecter of persons. It plagues the rich and famous just like it plagues everyone else. Marlon Brando was a famous actor who made millions of dollars over the course of his 30-year career. But after he retired, he was no longer trim and handsome. He weighed about 480 pounds. He said, “I have not been a good parent, I have not been a good husband. I’ve been too busy with my own life to help anybody. I’ve done nothing but harm people. There’s nothing left but for me to eat.” Brando looked back on a life filled with moral failures and insubordination to authority, and he honestly felt sorry for his mistakes. But he wouldn’t take the leg off the mantle (read yesterday’s devotional). Instead, he tried to erase the memories with a fork and knife.

Many Christians respond in a similar way when they feel guilty about their sins. Instead of dealing with their sin right away, they take their time. They know they have done wrong, and they’re sorry about it; but they do nothing to make it right. Sorrow itself will never bring forgiveness. Our guilt will hold us captive, and our efforts to break free will cause even more pain than the actual sin we committed. That’s why we need to ask for forgiveness to God and others (and realize when we have been forgiven). This is the best way to take the leg off the mantle and move on.

Everyone lives with regrets. There are plenty of people we have hurt, situations we have not handled correctly, and opportunities we have missed. The important question is, what will you do about your regrets? If you focus on them, you will always be a miserable person. But if you think about the fact you’ve been forgiven, you can take the leg off the mantle and be set free — forever.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder