This emotion, which is never pleasant, can be a very useful tool. A healthy dose of guilt causes us to recognize that we can do better, that our actions were unacceptable, that there is room for improvement, and motivates us to fix the situation. But used to excess by an over-critical mind, unnecessary guilt shifts the focus of shame from one's actions to one's overall worth as a human-being.
“Some anxiety and depression is caused by physical disorders, but much (perhaps most) of it is not pain of the body but of the spirit. Spiritual pain resulting from guilt can be replaced with peace of mind.
In contrast to the hard words condemning sin, listen to the calming, healing words of mercy, which balance the harsher words of justice.”
-President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
As Elder Packer's quote implies, the duty we have been given by Jesus Christ to “forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10) applies not only to others, but also to ourselves.
We all learn pretty early-on in life that other people are not perfect, and that we shouldn't expect perfection. But pretty often, we take a bit longer to learn that we shouldn't expect perfection from ourselves. It is commendable to reach for perfection, and to try every day to get a little closer, but when we set the bar at perfect, and view everything that falls short as failure, we're bound to get quite disappointed with ourselves.
As any athlete knows, the key to success is practice and persistence and dedication over a long period of time. It is much easier to climb a staircase or a ladder than it is to jump directly from the ground to the same height. No high jumper has ever gone directly from the couch to a nine-foot vertical jump at the Olympics. This would be a marvelous overall goal for anyone to think of setting, but a goal that lofty would need to be comprised of many smaller goals to become a reality. “First, I'll work on routine and get that down. Then, I'll work to clear five feet. Then, I'll try to clear five feet and three inches, etc., etc.”
A beginning jumper shouldn't be discouraged that he can't immediately jump over a house, and similarly, we shouldn't be discouraged just because we have some way to go on the road to spiritual and moral perfection. It's not something that happens right away, but something that comes little by little as we continually work for it.
It is with this in mind, that our Heavenly Father sent is Son, Jesus Christ to live among us. As God's Son, Christ had the capability to fully temper and control the natural urges and temptations that His mortal body would experience. Having absolutely no sin of His own, Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and also for our pains, infirmities, and yes, our guilt. He felt all of it. He experienced every bit of suffering that human family had, did, and would ever experience. And why? This was the price paid to allow us an out from our sins.
Thanks to this atonement made by Jesus Christ, our Savior, if we do everything we can to fix the situation presented by our misdoings, and gratefully acknowledge the miraculous sacrifice that Christ made, we can fully repent. And as far as God is concerned, the sin never happened. We are as clean and pure as the day we were born. This is how we achieve perfection, through Christ.
As we earnestly repent of our sins and misdeeds, and look upon Christ, we are given the wonderful gift of a clean conscience. There is no point to carry the shame with us once we have been forgiven by our loving Heavenly Father. It is time to forgive ourselves, and jettison any self-hate from our souls. God doesn't count it against us anymore. Why should we?