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I Feel Guilty

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I’m always feeling guilty, even if I don’t do anything wrong. I’m never happy or satisfied with my performance or Christian lifestyle, even though in actuality it’s not that bad. How can I stop feeling so guilty? It’s tearing me up inside.


Steve Answers:

The two most common ways to describe guilt are “false guilt” and “true guilt.” False guilt is feeling shame that you’ve done wrong when you actually haven’t. That’s what makes it false—even though it feels very real.

In contrast, true guilt is feeling shame that you’ve done wrong when you actually have. It comes from a conscience that tells you that you’ve messed up.

True guilt is healthy. If somebody kills another person and doesn’t feel any guilt about it, there’s reason to be concerned! If somebody lies and feels no guilt about it, there’s reason to be concerned.

If you’d like some Bible references to verdicts of guilt when people did wrong, check out Leviticus 5 and Numbers 5.

Now, to tell you glibly, “Stop feeling guilty when it’s false guilt” won’t necessarily remove your feelings. And while it may be wise to ignore your feelings at times, to shut them off isn’t a good idea. So how can you deal with your feelings of guilt?

First, study the facts and see if they influence your feelings. You’ll find some important facts about guilt in Romans 3:20-31. I suggest you read that passage.

Here’s my summary of it. All of us should feel guilty, because all of us are sinners. Yet God tells us that all our guilt is gone as far as He’s concerned when we trust Jesus with everything.

So here’s what we should do: Focus completely on Jesus, and our guilt is gone. Then, if we still feel guilty, we must rewind and go through the facts again: I am guilty (just like everyone else). God wipes away all my guilt because I trust Jesus. End of guilt.

Now, you can expect the devil to harass you and say you really aren’t forgiven. But the devil is a liar, and there’s no need to be surprised when he keeps saying that we’re still guilty (see John 8:44).

When you think it’s not fair for Jesus to take your guilt when you’ve earned it yourself, you’re right! But that’s what God chose to do (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). So just marvel in God’s goodness.

Now, back to your feelings of guilt. Some people have a temperament that’s very judgmental (often directed at themselves even more than at others). Such people can’t seem to help analyzing everything. And they can find the slightest thing wrong in something most people would think is completely right.

If you’re a perfectionist like this, you should continue to strive for excellence in all things. But forgiveness (of yourself and of others) must become an issue that regularly gets reseeded in your heart.

To get very practical, I’d recommend that you pick out psalms that express your feelings—as well as those that can transform your feelings. After you mark these, you may want to list them in the cover of your Bible for a quick reference. Remember, you’re forgiven!

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