Christian Counseling: Are You Guilty Of Mismanaging Guilt?

It is a very rare person who does not experience guilt in his or her lifetime, and that, as a result of impaired biopsychosocial development. Guilt is skewed for those who have not been born to spiritual life and do not have a Biblical basis for an educated understanding of right and wrong. The rest of us who are Christians, continue to grow in our understanding of what is true and false guilt and how to spiritually overcome guilt.


True and false guilt feel the same, miserable. But where true guilt objectively means a wrong has been committed and one's guilt feeling is correct, false guilt haunts a person who has not sinned regarding the object of guilt. Discerning true from false guilt is important in recovery and recovery is obviously important for many reasons, such as a prolonged life of guilty feelings can lead to depression, as well as anxiety and fear about being chastised or punished for wrongdoing.

Anecdotally, it appears almost half of Christians struggle with the sufficiency of Christ to atone for all sin. By that I mean they intellectually and spiritually believe He, by His suffering, paid our price for every wrong we have done and will do. Yet, emotionally they feel the need to pay directly for the error of their ways. Likely, our sense of justice finds fault with the idea of one person paying for the sins of another. It just doesn't seem right to us. Because of guilt, many feel unworthy of resting on the loving actions of Jesus to remove all guilt. Many decide to hold on to guilt and punish themselves. These people sabotage themselves, sometimes for years, with harsh, negative self-statements that reduces self-esteem and effects a worsened self-image. Here are a few of the self-sabotaging ways people have attempted to humanly or psychologically manage their guilt:

   anxiety, fear, depression, alcohol or other substances, verbal and physical abuse,                                             perfectionism, doing good to make up for the wrongs, subtly getting other people to                                         criticize/punish them (negative attention), refusing to take gifts, promotions or                                                 compliments, avoidance of pleasure and multiple confessions.

These useless and possible lifelong behaviors may give one some temporary relief, but are spiritually bankrupt and psychologically damaging. It may be easy to understand why non-Christians have a difficult time believing in Christ's work to completely take away all guilt, but it can be surprising to know many Christians lack the emotional faith to believe, despite their intellectual theology. 


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