Living Life in Real Time

Chapter 9 – Guilt and Shame are Good For Me April 13, 2010

WHAT!!!!  None of us really believe that!  Guilt and shame aren’t good for me.  If that’s true and I believe it…then why do I live the opposite?  Dang!

It’s good to know our basic sinfulness.  Isaiah 6:5 says “Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.” But guilt and shame aren’t necessarily good for us when we are thinking of our spiritual growth.

  • What value is there in being sharply aware of your sin?
  • When have you seen first hand someone use the guilt trip to get you to change your mind about something?

The problem is that we can feel guilty without actually being guilty.

Let’s explore what guilt and shame look like:

Guilt has 2 common meanings:

  1. The state of having done something wrong
  2. A feeling resulting from a belief that we’ve done something wrong.

The Bible always refers to guilt at the state of having done something wrong and not the feeling.  When we have feelings of guilt that is our conscience condemning us.  Guilt feelings are telling us that we are bad.  Guilt feelings often cause os to criticize and condemn ourselves even more.

  • Why is it important to understand that the Bible always refers to guilt as the state of being guilty and not the feelings of guilt?

Shame is a painful feeling that we’ve lost the respect of others by our behavior

Shame is the sense of being bad.  It’s a state of internal condemnation.

  • How would you explain the difference between shame and guilt?

Consider this:  Guilt describes our self-conviction for what we do, while shame disgraces us for who we are.

  • What are healthy sources of guilt and shame?  (Romans 1:20; Romans 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 1:27)

So, if the Bible talks about guilt and shame in healthy ways, why is it this week’s crazy maker?

The guilt and shame that the Bible talks about are emotional responses to the reality of our fallenness.  This type of guilt and shame serves as a reminder that we desperately need grace, and they motivate us to look for help, forgiveness and making amends.  The guilt and shame that come from us through the failings of our conscience and to us as a result of someone’s ulterior motives is different.

Now that we understand the difference between guilt and shame…let’s take it one step further and talk more about our conscience.  Sometimes our conscience sends wrong signals.

  • Why do feelings of guilt not necessarily mean guilt?

There are 3 types of consciences:

  1. If we have an immature conscience we find guilt everywhere.  We take responsibility for much more than God intended.
  2. If we have a seared conscience we have little sense of remorse.  It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from the immature conscience.  With a seared conscience we can become controllers and master manipulators of others.
  3. Our goal is a mature conscience.  Over time a mature conscience is able to get closer and closer to the values that God intended through his Word.  Our conscience grows and matures with us as we grow and mature spiritually.

Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow

Guilt feelings focus on how bad we are.  You’ll find it centered around how worthless we feel and a sense that we deserve to be punished.  These guilt feels are very self-absorbed.  It’s all inward focused and self-centered.  This guilt moves us further and further away from relationship.  Godly sorrow is something different.  Godly sorrow is empathetic and centered on the hurt we have caused to someone we love.

  • What’s the difference between Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow?

Godly sorrow seeks to heal, to make amends, to come back together with those we have hurt.  Guilt seeks to self-justify.  Guilt holds us back from love and guilt gets in the way of spiritual and emotional growth.

Does Guilt Convict?

The Holy Spirit brings to light our sinfulness and our need for God.  But the Holy Spirit doesn’t dictate our responses.

  • What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer? (John 16:8)

Is Guilt Ever Good?

While guilt feelings can lead us down the wrong path and hinder our spiritual growth, those same guilt feelings can be a sign of spiritual growth.

  • Why can the steps we take in our recovery from emotional problems prompt severe guilt attacks?

If you’re motivated by guilt and shame, you can’t also be motivated by love.

A strict, guilt-inducing conscience isn’t from God.  We’ll end this chapter with this thought on page 160:

“This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”  (1 John 3:19-20)

If you’d like to join this study in real time…I’m teaching it at HopePark Wednesday Mornings & Thursday Nights. If you’re a Nashville local, the door is always open. We’re at 8001 Hwy. 70 South, just off I-40. Online at http://hopepark.com and on twitter @hopepark.

Me…well you can find me twittering @jodytodd.

Have a great week!


Questions and assigned quotes from the study by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend entitled “12 Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.”


One Response to “Chapter 9 – Guilt and Shame are Good For Me”

  1. […] Chapter 9 – Guilt and Shame are Good For Me « Unraveled […]

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