Guilt is an emotional response to wrongdoing. We experience it when we break man’s civil law or God‘s commandments. But what about those times when no law was broken, and yet we feel as if we did something wrong? That is false guilt, an unnecessary and often crippling emotion.
False guilt may come from a traumatic childhood in which the young person blames himself for problems over which he had no control. This pattern of blaming oneself can carry over into adulthood. Perhaps we face criticism for failing to meet the expectations of employers or family. Their verbal abuse can wear us down until we see ourselves as unworthy or useless. We end up feeling guilty for not meeting someone else’s expectations.
Some of us are perfectionists who try to do everything right the first time. Since no one can always do things flawlessly, guilt is a frequent companion. Yet we have not violated any scriptural law. If we find ourselves thinking, I should have done more or I could have performed better, we may be falling into the perfectionism trap. There are instances when our efforts are not what they should be, but that isn’t a reason for guilt. If there is no breaking of God’s law, then our negative feelings are not based in fact.
Christians will make errors in judgment and experience conviction as a result. First John 1:9 tells us to turn to God and confess our sin. If there’s no biblical or civil basis for guilt, then ask the Lord to help you disconnect from the feeling of false guilt and replace it with the peace Jesus promised.
DR. CHARLES STANLEY