Can Guilt Be a Good Thing?

How discerning true guilt can move you forward in your faith
Can Guilt Be a Good Thing?

"Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” proclaimed a sappy romance novel from the 1970s. I’ve come to believe the opposite, that love means precisely having to say you’re sorry. A sense of guilt, vastly underappreciated, deserves our gratitude, for only such a powerful force can budge us toward repentance and reconciliation with those we’ve harmed.

Yet guilt represents danger as well. I’ve known Christians who go through life with hyper attention to defects. Some raised in oppressive environments go through life afraid, heads down, fleeing anything that might be perceived as pleasure, and terrified that they’re somehow offending one of God’s laws.

Guilt serves its designed purpose only if it presses us toward the God who promises forgiveness and restoration.

Martin Luther, in his early days as a monk, would daily wear out his confessors with as many as six straight hours of introspection about minuscule sins and unhealthy thoughts. “My son, God is not angry with you: it is you who are angry with God,” said one of his exasperated advisors. Luther eventually came to agree that his fear of sinning actually showed a lack of faith, both in his ability to live purely in an impure world and in Christ’s provision for his sin. “To diagnose smallpox you do not have to probe each pustule, nor do you heal each separately,” he concluded.

We must learn to discriminate between false guilt inherited from parents, church, or society and true guilt as a response to breaking God’s laws clearly revealed in the Bible. True guilt has a directional movement, first pointing backward to the sin and then pointing forward to repentance. Guilt serves its designed purpose only if it presses us toward the God who promises forgiveness and restoration. Guilt is only a symptom; we listen to it because it drives us toward the cure.

Member access onlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview
To continue reading, join now for free and get complete access.
orJoin Now for Free

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our free Marriage & Family newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help women grow their marriage and family relationships through biblical principles.

God's Character; Guilt; Reconciliation; Redemption; Repentance; Shame
Today's Christian Woman, September Week 3, 2014
Posted September 17, 2014

Read These Next

  • Also in This IssueWho Are You Letting Down?
    Who Are You Letting Down?Member Access Only
    Why you should focus on God’s goodness instead of your own shortcomings
  • Related Issue
    Sexual HealingMember Access Only
    Many women suffer from pain during intercourse. Here’s one woman’s story of suffering and restored intimacy.
  • Editor's PickThe 3 Blessings of Sorrow
    The 3 Blessings of SorrowMember Access Only
    What John 16:33 means to me


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

May 25

Follow Us

More Newsletters