Growing to love guilt

This past week I have been thinking about guilt – no I don’t have a guilty conscience! A friend asked for my thoughts for a presentation she is putting together. When I was little I used to be terrified of doing something wrong and being arrested – irrationally so. I remember walking with my friend’s parents and they wanted to cross the schools playfields. A sign on the fenced said ‘Trespassers Prosecuted’. I was beside myself with fear that we would all end up in prison. In school when the headmistresses demanded the girl who pushed the old lady on bus no 27 come forward and confess I wanted to cry ‘Yes it was me’, even though I walked home from school and didn’t take the bus.

I always thought my over tuned sense of guilt was a bad thing, but looking in the bible I find that guilt is God given. Guilt is not meant to be a punishment in itself – God is not saying ‘Oh you did wrong, not let me watch you squirm’. Guilt is designed to turn us back to him in repentance so that we can find forgiveness.

Psalms 38:4-18  My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.  5  My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.  6  I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning….18  I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.

Guilt is designed to drive us to our knees in confession and repentance – it is meant to be a place of transition, not a place to wallow and fester. So perhaps it is a sign I am growing old (other than the gray hairs!), but I am growing to love guilt. Not loving the feeling of guilt but loving the gift of guilt.

John 16:8  When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:

Thank you God that you love us enough not to leave us in our sin, but that you guide us by your Spirit back to you again and again for forgiveness.

Beholding Glory
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17 Replies to “Growing to love guilt”

  1. I have always thought guilt was bad (still doesn’t keep me from carrying it around, though!), but it is, as you note, only a place of transition.

    I read in my devotional just this morning, “If you carry a burden of guilt on your back, you are more likely to stumble and fall. At your request, I will remove the heavy load from you and bury it at the foot of the cross. Stand up straight and tall in My presence, so that no one can place more burdens on your back.”

    What a great reminder that when are filled with guilt, to let it go, to give it to Him.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. My daughter was frightened to go through the library safety system — thought if it beeped they would think she stole a book.

    “Gift of guilt” is a beautiful way to live.

    1. I’m glad they didn’t have those when I was a kid – I still sweat going through the green channel at customs even when I know I have nothing to be worried about

  3. Hi Tracey – what a refreshing way to think of guilt, and I agree its purpose is to turn us back to God, and repentance or prevention of falling into sin. I don’t think as a child I was overly worried by guilt, although I was not naughty (just saying…) but I do remember hiding the wooden spoon away under the neighbouring caravan when my folks were on holiday. Hmm, what does that say?
    God bless Tracey
    Tracy

  4. Good post and enjoyed reading the comments too. Kim’s comment reminded me of the saying “remember sheep are not burden carrying animals.” Guilt has its blessings but not too much of it.

    Remember the little cartoon characters – the devil and the angel – sitting on the shoulders – telling us what to do?

    You have brought to me a new perspective to the word guilt. – Learn from it and hold it lightly!

  5. I don’t think guilt is ever a good thing- And I don’t think it is the same thing as conviction- In fact I think it is the opposite. Conviction, which is one thing the Holy Spirit does for a Christian, might lead us to repentance, but guilt will just ensure that we don’t feel like we’ve been forgiven. Guilt is at least just a manifestation of sin; Martin Luther said it was because human reason could not accept that we might just be forgiven for something without repercussions- At worst it is Satan whispering in our ear about all the things we’ve done wrong in the past- That’s why he is sometimes called “the accuser”- I hope you rethink this..

    1. Thanks for your thoughts – I see where you are coming from but cannot fully agree. Without the Holy Spirit convicting us of our guilt in regards to sin and unrighteousness we would never turn to God in repentance and find forgiveness. John 16:8-9 “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me..”. Yes Satan accuses and yes guilt undealt with is not a good thing but for me guilt reminds me of my need for God.

      1. This is comedy timing, but it just came to my mind again- I think the verse you quoted means guilty in the judical sense- As in the opposite of innocent- The feeling of guilt is something else and I think you’re confusing it with conviction- Which is the very opposite thing and leads to repentance. It was guilt, for example, that led Adam to hide from God in the Garden. Guilt is what makes kids tell lies to cover the fact that they wet the bed. I guess I reacted against this because I have experienced first hand how guilt can be manipulated by the unscrupulous and how that can be damaging to a person for a long time, especially if a parent or loved one does it..

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