True guilt can be an incredibly healthy thing. Feelings of guilt allow me to look honestly at myself and my actions. This enables me to address what I’ve done wrong, and if needed, I can confess and seek forgiveness. Once the guilt has been addressed, the feelings will begin to dissipate over time. Honest feelings of guilt are an incredible gift.
False guilt on the other hand is corrosive and devastating. Few things can derail your life more than false guilt. False guilt often feels exactly like real guilt. That’s what makes it so difficult to deal with. The difference is that it tends to linger regardless of what action you take. False guilt is what happens when you feel guilty even though you've done nothing wrong. Those of us with especially sensitive hearts can be ravaged by false guilt.
True guilt is present when objectively wrong actions have occurred by your hands. In other words for it to be true guilt, it has to be wrong, and you have to be one the one who did it. If either of these are not present, then that feeling churning in your stomach is false guilt . Here’s two important questions to ask to avoid carrying around the weight false guilt.
Is what I’ve done morally wrong?
Just because someone isn’t happy with you doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. Remember, you are not responsible for how others feel! Using the Bible as direction, I believe that lying is morally wrong, as is stealing or lust for example. It is not wrong, however, to miss someone’s call, or to not be able to read their mind and predict what they want from you. If you haven’t done something morally wrong, then it’s not true guilt that you are feeling.
Was it my responsibility/decision?
Just because something bad happens around you doesn’t mean that you have done something wrong. Remember, you are not responsible for other people’s decisions! We can impact people, influence them, and encourage them, but when all is said and done, we have no power over what decisions they will make. You can raise a child as perfectly as you are able but, they still get to decide for themselves whether or not they want to become a drug addict, go to law school, or marry their cousin. So, don’t apologize for things you have no control over!
False guilt impacts our health and well-being in countless ways. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong, but it takes just as much courage sometimes to admit that you aren’t actually the one to blame. I hope these questions will help you know how to tell the difference!
Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo