Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Good Guilt, Bad Guilt



“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are

under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world

may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3: 19, NKJV)


A Daily Encounter reader writes: “I have a parent who is very ‘toxic’

and bitter. When we were little, she always took us to church and

made sure that we had the opportunity to meet and accept Jesus

into our lives which my sister and I both have done. But as the years

have progressed, she has become more and more lonely, isolated,

and bitter… She drags on and on and on regarding how lonely she is

and that if we were just closer, she wouldn’t have this problem.

I feel like she is trying to blame us for her situation. What can I do?”


Conflict with the significant people in our life is never easy? Realize

though, that one of the most common ways family members try to

control us is through guilt; that is, false guilt. In other words, they

try to make us feel guilty if we don’t do what they want us to do.

And as most of us don’t like feeling guilty, all too often we give in

to the controlling person.


When we do things that are wrong and sinful, we ought to feel guilty.

That is healthy guilt (although in the Bible guilt is a legal term,

not an emotional one. If I have done wrong, I am guilty whether

I feel it or not.) The biblical term for this kind of guilt is “godly sorrow” –

this is healthy guilt. It motivates us to put things right and to make

amends for the things we have done wrong.


But false guilt is destructive of relationships and is psychologically

damaging to the personality. It is very unhealthy and is a form of

sin for anything that is harmful to myself or others is sinful!


People who use false guilt to control people are “guilt throwers.”

With these people we need to stop being “guilt catchers.” An excellent

way to handle a “guilt thrower,” when they try to put us on a

guilt trip, is to calmly say, “You’re not trying to make me feel

guilty, are you?”


“Of course not,” they will say and continue to throw guilt at us

for as long as we are willing to catch it. But if we stop catching it,

eventually they will stop throwing it to us and move on to throw it

to some other person who is a good guilt catcher!


At first, when we refuse to catch the guilt thrower’s “guilt ball”

we are going to feel “false-guilty” because we are conditioned to

feel that way… but in time, as we practice not catching “guilt balls”,

we will feel better and better about ourselves for allowing ourselves

to be manipulated.


Suggested prayer: “Dear God, please help me to recognize the

difference between real guilt and false guilt. Help me always to

resolve true guilt and find your forgiveness. Help me never to be

a guilt thrower, and help me to kindly but firmly not allow myself

to be a guilt catcher. Gratefully in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

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