True Guilt, False Guilt, & Chronic Guilt
Some psychologists believe that guilt is a “futile waste of time” or “a convenient tool used for manipulation” (Dyer, 1995). But can you imagine this world without guilt? What would it be like? Those who committed crimes would not think twice about committing another one. There are two types of guilt according to the Bible, …“godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2 Cor. 7:10). We have two examples in the Bible that demonstrate these two different types of guilt. Peter represents how “godly sorrow worketh repentance.” He denied Christ three times, but he recognized that he had sinned and repented. This experience caused Peter to become a humble vessel in which Christ could work wonders through. Judas, on the other hand, experienced a guilt that led to his suicide (Parks, 2007). Judas didn’t have to die for his sins. Even he could have been forgiven, but he chose not to accept the death of Christ as being sufficient to atone for his sins. When we say that we accept Christ’s forgiveness, but haven’t forgiven ourselves yet, this is in fact a denial that Christ’s death is sufficient to atone for our sins. No where in the Bible does it say we need to forgive ourselves. We sometimes tell ourselves that the solution is that “I need to forgive myself” as opposed to stating the truth about our inability to accept Christ’s forgiveness as being sufficient for our sins. This is a defense mechanism. By stating this we keep ourselves from coming face to face with the painful truth: we haven’t accepted Christ’s death for ourselves. False guilt, in other words, keeps us from knowing the TRUTH and acting upon the TRUTH.
False guilt is difficult enough to deal with, but it becomes even more difficult when the false guilt is chronic. Studies have shown that those who struggle with chronic guilt often have experienced trauma as a child (Colson, 2013). Also, those who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or sometimes anxiety often tend to experience chronic guilt. Imagine a young business man who feels guilty about asking the hotel receptionist about a charge he has on his receipt that he does not recognize. It is his duty as a Christian steward to inquire about the unknown charge. Yet, maybe he fears that he would not be a good Christian by showing suspicion of other’s actions or that they may perceive him as being suspicious of their actions. His concern and his ability to execute his Christian principles are becoming muddy because of the inability to evaluate the evidence to recognize the TRUTH. Can you see how the TRUTH can be confused? Maybe this fear of how he will be perceived comes from a core belief that he is incompetent. This core belief may have begun its’ development as a child when he was overly criticized when he failed.
There is a way to steer clear of being a slave to chronic guilt or false guilt. The reason for falling into chronic guilt or false guilt in the first place is due to not knowing what the TRUTH is. Knowing the TRUTH or the STANDARD would manage/direct/guide all other automatic thoughts making up the belief system. Even if one does have their eyes fixed on the STANDARD they can still fall into the trap of chronic or false guilt due to not being aware or identifying the root of their guilt. The Bible states that we are to invite God to search our hearts, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts:” (Psalms 139:23). The purpose for which we have the law is to identify sin in order to correct it and be in harmony with the STANDARD. It’s like a tree. The leaves represent the many sins or issues that one is having within himself. Many times we attempt to remove the issue or sin one leaf at a time, but Christ wants to lay the ax at the root of the tree. The root of the tree represents our core belief system. We can find freedom by submitting our core belief system to the STANDARD or in other words, the TRUTH. “The TRUTH will set you free” (John 8:32b, emphasis mine).
© 2016 by Christina Cecotto