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True or False Guilt

Updated on February 6, 2018

There are generally two kinds of guilt: first, a person actually is to blame for a wrong they have committed and second, a person assumes they are to blame for something they have not done at all. The first one is true guilt and if a person takes responsibility for what they have done, they will feel remorse and seek forgiveness. The second one is not as clear cut and this is the “false” guilt that causes people to become confused and they usually end up feeling the helplessness of shame.

When people live under the cloud of false guilt, there seems to be no way to rectify the situation. In their confusion, they seek for what they must have done wrong in the situation. Not finding anything, the next “logical” conclusion ends up being: “I am all wrong.” If the person is all wrong , there is no hope of forgiveness or restoration unless a person becomes someone else or continuously meets the expectation of others. As those of us who have struggled with false guilt know, there is no hope of doing this perfectly. What is the alternative?

The opposite of carrying false guilt is to never admit to guilt at all. By doing this, there is no need to take any responsibility for our actions. It is the “who cares” attitude—if I’m never wrong , I never have to take responsibility for my actions at all. These people will never admit that others could be right and must have the upper-hand in all situations to confirm their “right-ness.” In truth, they live in just as much fear of being discovered as the one who carries the false guilt.

Neither can separate the false from the true. The first feels helpless and fears becoming unnecessary if they’re not needed by everyone; the second is afraid of becoming unimportant if they are not always right and in control . Both wonder (if they are truly honest with themselves) whether there is a better way. Can I truly be myself? What will happen if I fail or make a mistake?

The Bible says in Romans 3:23 (NIV), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God .” This is part of the human condition we are born into—we will do things wrong. So, first of all, we need to accept our humanity. Our ability to make mistakes does not make us different from anyone else, it makes us the same. The difference comes in our desire to admit when we’ve done wrong and make amends for what we have done.

In 1 John 1:9 (NIV) it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness .” When we can finally admit those things which we can take responsibility for (true guilt), then we can find freedom through forgiveness. It is at this juncture that we can become truly who we are meant to be. We no longer need to prove to others that we are what we think we should be, we just need to be who we are and allow others to love us as such.

Most of my life I have struggled with false guilt and compensated by being there for everyone—being what I thought they wanted me to be. When this became too great a burden for me, I started to isolate myself as a protection against burnout. My reasoning was that if I didn’t have people in my life, then I wouldn’t have to live up to their expectations. Home alone became my only safe place. Obviously, that was not an acceptable solution and I began to realize the fear of failure was no greater than the pain of loneliness. I gradually began my personal journey toward freedom and God has been helping me every step of the way—and still is!

Do you have the courage to step out of false guilt and embrace freedom? How quickly this happens will depend on how long you have believed the lie and how determined you are to change. Take the risk—it’s worth it. You’ll be surprised at how many people will love and accept you just the way you are. Do you have the courage to take responsibility for true guilt and be freed from it? If you do, a great load will be lifted from your shoulders and you’ll be able to enjoy life as it was meant to be lived. So, release yourself of guilt, whether it be true or false.

© 2010 Flo Belanger


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    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for your comment Whidbeywriter...glad you found freedom from this sense of false guilt that can drag us down unnecessarily. Blessings!

    • Whidbeywriter profile image

      Mary Gaines 

      7 years ago from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington

      Great hub and subject you don't read about too often. I agree with your words because I too struggled with trying to please others all the time, now I just please the Lord and try to do the right thing, when I am wrong I admit it and move on.....apologize and forgive others & myself because I know Jesus died so that we could be forgiven. Thanks for sharing! Blessings

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada is difficult to figure out sometimes when we put expectations on ourselves of what we think we "should" be or do and then get discouraged when we can't live up to them. It is liberating when we identify what is ours to carry and what we can let go of! Thanks for commenting!

      carrie450...glad you found it helpful. People-pleasers and nurturers perhaps have more difficulty letting go of false guilt, thinking that if something goes wrong they must bear the took me a long time before I learned that I'm not always to blame!

    • carrie450 profile image


      7 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      I can relate to all of this also FloBe. Very good advice you have given.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 

      7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      well written and I can identify with either scenario of guilt. Since getting a chronic illness, I don't try to please others as much and I find I have to apologize less and feel less guilt because I absolutely can't do what everyone wants anymore. I still feel guilt with my young daughter though because I wish I could do more and be more for her like a "normal" mom, but I know that's false guilt. Voted up!

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Scarlett My Dear...I'm so glad you came by. Life is so much easier when we accept our imperfections and accept the process of learning as a natural progression in our life journey...thanks for your encouragement.

    • Scarlett My Dear profile image

      Scarlett My Dear 

      8 years ago from Missouri

      Dear FloBe~ I couldn't have come across your post at a better time. Thank you for this reminder! Though I, like all of us, have my own struggles in life, False Guilt is not one of them. I see nothing more restricting of the spirit than placing or accepting blame where it is not warranted, rather than accepting imperfection and moving toward change.

      So glad I found you early here on Hubpages!

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Happyboomernurse...I'm glad this hub can be of help to you. This false guilt probably comes from a very low sense of self-esteem from not measuring up to expectations. But, there is hope! Knowing the depth of God's love is at the core of the solution I think.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Hi FloBe,

      Thanks for writing a clear and concise hub on a topic that many struggle with. I had a friend prone to feeling false guilt and I was at a loss as to how to help her. Basically just kept reassuring her that she was loved by me and also by God. The thing is, that she was always giving unconditional love to everyone but herself! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Cwarden...thanks for stopping by. I'm glad this hub hit home and yes, I hope many will find freedom in these words.

    • cwarden profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I have struggled with false guilt myself and I know we are not alone. This is very well written and I'm sure there are many that will benefit from this. Great hub - thank you.

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      onegoodwoman...sounds like you're pretty down to earth and real. I'd like to get to know you better...two peas in a pod??

    • onegoodwoman profile image


      8 years ago from A small southern town

      Na.....I don't do guilt, or false apologies.

      The refusal to apologize once cost me the " whipping" of my childhood.

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes, Quill, the truth does set us free...and when we're completely honest before God, he accepts us just the way we are! It is awesome. Blessings on you and yours today.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Morning FloBe... first thank you for this writing. It is bang on to what we all need to hear and you are never alone in the boat. Guilt is a horrible burden to carry, it is instilled into us at a very young age and requires the love of the Father to remove it from us.

      The truth will always set us free, sin and own up to it and move ahead and He teaches us along the way. Allow another to place a false guilt upon you and you will live under their control until you find your way clear of it. We are so blessed to have a Father who loves us unconditionally.

      Blessings and Hugs

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, James, I've been enjoying your articles as well...appreciate the feedback.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      An excellent exposition on "guilt" in its various forms. Well written and concise. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Excellent attitude to have, Dream On, some of us don't learn that valuable lesson till much later in life, if at all.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      8 years ago

      You did a topic I never think about.I have always lived my life differently.I never think of guilt at all.I just do things the best I can and if they don't work out I try again and again.I think guilt is wasted energy.I rather spend my time failing 100 times knowing that the next time I might get it right.I know life is short and I have to do all I can with the time I have.

    • FloBe profile imageAUTHOR

      Flo Belanger 

      8 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, panda.nibedita, enjoyed yours as well :)

    • panda.nibedita profile image


      8 years ago from Pune, India

      Nice hub..Flobe..


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