Should a Christian ever feel guilty? Is there “good guilt”?
Yes, I believe there is an appropriate time for guilt. In a nutshell, you should feel guilty when you sin.
It is popular in today’s psychology to proclaim that guilt is bad, and we should rid ourselves of it but this stems from the humanist approach that denies God, and disavows the existence of absolute right and wrong.
As Christians, we believe that what God says is a standard that transcends our opinion, our feelings, society and political correctness. Since those standards transcend human authority, then it is appropriate to feel guilty when they are violated.
Guilt is the appropriate emotion stirred up by the Holy Spirit to draw a Christian’s focus towards sin in their life.
There is a difference between appropriate guilt and destructive self-condemnation.
It’s important to be able to recognize the difference between condemnation, which you are free from (Romans 8:1), and conviction, which God uses to tell us something is wrong in our life (John 16:8). Condemnation comes from Satan in the form of self-focused false guilt. Condemnation will be vague, degrading and leave you feeling hopeless. Conviction comes from God and is the feeling that something is wrong but God tells us specifically what to change to make things “right”. Conviction is uplifting because it brings Godly correction and leaves us feeling blessed and hopeful.
Appropriate guilt helps us to know that we have sinned. Once we repent, and ask for forgiveness, the guilt is no longer necessary. To hold on to it is destructive and exposes some other sin or problem that needs to be dealt with. Some people hold on to guilt out of ignorance, some for attention and some because of self pity. At that point, guilt becomes something else (ie, self pity, pride, ignorance, etc).
Psalms 51 is a great place to start a Biblical study about guilt. Here a few highlighted verses (NKJV; emphasis mine):
- 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
Readers, how can we recognize appropriate guilt? Share your thoughts with everyone on the message boards. Go here….