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To Be or Not to Be...Guilty

Updated on June 4, 2011

Much of my work as a pastor involves pastoral counseling. I often wonder why. If people would just obey the Word as it is preached and taught, there would be much less need for individual counseling. However, the fact of life is that counseling is a big part of ministry.

Often I find people come for counseling because of a false sense of guilt. Guilt is a conscience issue. Our conscience is influenced by many things. It can be influenced by our parent's teaching or practice, by our church's teaching or practice, by friends opinions, by the world and many other influences. No two consciences are the same although the Holy Spirit is always right. I Timothy 4:2 mentions that we can have our conscience seared. We may overlook something that is truly wrong, or it may seem that everything we do is wrong even though God says otherwise. We need to distinguish between true guilt and false guilt.

True guilt is the uncomfortable awareness that we have violated God's moral law and is produced partly by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and partly by our own conscience. False guilt, on the other hand, results in a feeling of guilt for a thought, speech, or deed that God's Word does not condemn.

True guilt is valuable in leading us to repentance. II Corinthians 7:10 tells us, "...godly sorrow worketh repentance." False guilt stems from social situations, fear of taboos, or losing love. In other words, it is based solely on feeling and emotion. Some feel guilty because they have been tempted to sin, but temptation to sin is not the same as committing the sin. If that were the case then Jesus was a sinner (Hebrews 4:15-- "For we have not an high priest...{that} was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin)."

True guilt comes from a genuine conscience that has betrayed an authentic standard. False guilt comes from the judgment of man, not God's Word.

True guilt is the result of God's divine judgment and often does not weigh us down. The fear of social judgment, and the disapproval of man can and most likely will cause us to carry a weight that we do not rightly own. We become independent of them in proportion to our dependence upon God.

False guilt usually begins in childhood. A too rigid conscience is developed by too rigid expectations or standards imposed by the parents. Parents that excessively blame, condemn, judge, and/or accuse their children cause a warped idea of the standard, thus causing anger and rebellion. This is what Paul warns us about in Ephesians 6:4, "And, ye fathers,provoke not your children to wrath...", and again in Colossians 3:21, "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." Unforgiving parents that punish excessively also aid to in a child's warped sense of right and wrong. Parents by omission can also damage the young conscience. By failing to praise, encourage, and appreciate the individual child they teach that they are never satisfied with the child which in turn leads to an exaggeration of right or wrong.

So what is the treatment for false guilt? Let me give you four thoughts. 1. Understand it for what it is and evaluate it in light of the circumstances. 2. Feelings of bitterness and pride must be separated from the false guilt feelings. Bitterness and pride can be caused by the false guilt an individual experiences, and now false guilt is intermingled with true guilt. 3. Realize you have no right to condemn yourself. Only God has that right, and we would do best to leave the condemning to Him. 4. Set new goals based on what you believe God expects, not man.

And what about true guilt? Remember the tree R's. Repent (Joshua 24:23). Await for the cleansing of all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). Forsake your sin. It is the forsaking of sin that brings mercy--"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." Return (Joshua 24:24). Get back to the Lord. Obedience brings no guilt. Restore (Leviticus 6:4). Make right the wrongs that you have committed, but keep it only between those involved.

Free yourself from guilt--whether it be true guilt or false guilt. Then you will be free to serve God in His power.

For more on this topic, see The Minstrel's hub, The Acuser and the Orphan at


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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for the visit and comments. It's always good of you to stop by.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Brother I truly enjoyed your hub of love. WOW. Very nice!! This is truly an inspiration and I pray many are led to this writing in wisdom and truth. Hugs Galore brother. Keep soaring on those wings of the Eagle.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for stopping by and for your insight. Guilt certainly can cause difficult psychological problems, and even it more, guilt causes deep spiritual complications.

    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 6 years ago from Russia

      Thank you for bringing out this difficult and psychologically deep painful issue. I am in Sahaja Yoga but there is also this common point about freeing yourself of guilt which is very important if we really want to be closer to God. Putting too much stress on guilt creates many psychological problems.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      I think you're right. I think in many instances the Christian sees God with the same emotional makeup as their parents. In some cases that might be good, but all too often it hinders Christian growth. Thanks for the observation!

    • Sky321 profile image

      Sky321 6 years ago from Canada

      Excellent hub! When I was a newer Christian and my children were small I may have done this to them and I now talk to them about it. From different people I talked to who were raised with false guilt it seems to affect their relationship with God a great deal. I think because they are not sure what is from God and what is just from their parents. Thanks for sharing this great wisdom.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      God Talk,

      yes so many people seemed weighed down. False guilt does that. True guilt leads us to relief if we seek to deal with it. Thanks for stopping by.

      searchinsany, thanks for the visit. It's always good to hear from you.

      Laurie, just some things I had to learn the hard way. Most of my learning has been that way. Thanks for the visit. I always look forward to hearing form you.

      ABR, The accuser is alive and well for sure. Thank God for HIS joy.

      RevLAdy, good to hear from you. Thanks for the visit--and you're quite welcome!

      TJ, I know of so many people that struggle with the guilt issue, but the three steps work every time if we truly apply them. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 6 years ago

      Excellent teaching. That makes so much sense to distinguish who it is we are trying to please man or God in evaluating our feelings of guilt and their validity. I also like the three steps of Repent Return and Restore.

    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      A wonderful meditation that deals squarely on with the enemy's tactic. Thanks for the nourishment. I am not full.

      Forever His

    • Abrushing1968 profile image

      Aaron Rushing 6 years ago from USA- Florida

      Good word Lifegate.

      We have an accuser who will take advantage of any and all opportunities to rob us of our joy. For he knows that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. Thank you for distinguishing between conviction and condemnation.

      God Bless


    • profile image

      exjwlaurie 6 years ago

      Excellent hub Brother Lifegate! I think so many people struggle with guilt these days.

      You bring up some very good points regarding false guilt. I think the Enemy loves to plague God's people with inner turmoil, even as they deal with their day to day trials. This teaching is very appropriate for our times, whether dealing with false guilt or guilt from the conviction by God, which calls us to repentance.

      I enjoyed reading this and learned from it! =) Thanks for sharing this!

    • searchinsany profile image

      Alexander Gibb 6 years ago from UK

      Another excellent hub, thank you.

    • GodTalk profile image

      Jeff Shirley 6 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan

      A good job on distinguishing between true and false guilt. So many people seem weighed down by what the Lord doesn't condemn.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      Thanks for the visit. I always enjoy it when you stop by.


      Thanks for the vote! God truly is faithful and His goodness abounds. Praise His Name!

    • samsons1 profile image

      Sam 6 years ago from Tennessee

      God will do all He's suppose to do, when we do all we're suppose to do, you know, I like that. Rated up and beautiful!

      Please remember an unruly grandson who is in rebellion against his Godly parents. May God be glorified...

    • Michael Adams1959 profile image

      Michael Adams1959 6 years ago from Wherever God leads us.


      Another great hub! I love how if we repent, turn to God return our love trust faith in Him He will restore to us His glory. just like in the Psalms restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 6 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA


      He certainly does! What a great God we serve!

    • profile image

      michael 6 years ago

      Amen, repent return and restore, I praise God He does that when we come to Him, we repent, He restores.