If you’ve ever struggled with guilt and condemnation or would like to understand grace, you should read the Book of Romans (preferably the Message translation).

Grace loses its essence when you imagine you have to do something to earn it; when you think you (or a spiritual leader) must determine your penance. When God forgives you, yes, there may be natural consequences of your wrongdoing but he provides incredible grace to bear them. He no longer holds your sin against you. When he forgives, he alone determines your discipline, and not you. It is the Father who decides the “number of strokes of the cane” that will be meted out.

Guilt and self-flagellation are human attempts to try to make amends. Stop.

Sometimes, when your life irrevocably changes because of something you’ve done, you wonder how you ever got to that point. What were you thinking? But you must forgive yourself, move on and embrace the gift of a cleared conscience. God has already forgiven you. No one dares condemn you now.

Willpower alone cannot transform your life. You need God’s grace; the kind that comes when you hang out with God consistently. When you do so, his nature rubs off on you. Doing the right thing becomes simpler. You fall in love with God and pleasing him (or not hurting him) becomes easier. And don’t underestimate the power of conviction that’s ignited when you daily feast on God’s word. If you allow it, God’s word will slowly rewrite your internal programming – your ideology and beliefs – and give you the strength to stay true to difficult decisions.