Response to Shame and Guilt Trips
"Now I am happy," the Apostle Paul wrote, "not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness…what concern, what readiness to see justice done."1
In response to a Daily Encounter I wrote some time ago, a subscriber wrote the following day, "I am concerned about your article on guilt throwers and guilt catchers. There are some things in this world that are Biblically wrong! Our daughter has used that article to justify a lifestyle that is inherently fraught with sin. Sin is real and it is wrong. Some people need to feel guilt. That is how the Holy Spirit works to return them to God's guidance fold. I despise the whole idea of this article—that there is nothing about which we should feel guilt—BALONEY AND HERESY! SHAME ON YOU!"
Dear Joan (name changed), thank you for your response to the Daily Encounter about "Guilt Throwers and Guilt Catchers." I always appreciate it when those who differ with me say it directly to my face.
First, I would appreciate it if you would let me know specifically what I said that you feel is baloney and heresy? Also, where did I say "there is nothing about which we should feel guilt or guilty?"
Second, this article is not talking about not feeling guilty when we have done wrong. It's talking about people who dump shame and/or guilt trips onto other people, which is often used to control and manipulate them—or to seek to justify their own actions.
Third, my article says that guilt is best left to the Holy Spirit. In other words it is God's work to make us feel guilty, not my responsibility to make others feel shameful or guilty.
Fourth, it is true that we use the term "guilty" as an emotional response but in the Bible guilt is a legal, not an emotional, term. If we have done wrong, we are guilty regardless of what we feel. It's the same with the law of the land—guilt has to do with what we have done or haven't done—not how we feel.
Fifth, the biblical "emotional" term and appropriate response when we are guilty is "Godly sorrow" as seen in today's Scripture passage.
Lastly, If your daughter is in rebellion against what you believe, I would urge you to sincerely pray and ask God to reveal to you anything you might possibly be contributing in any way towards her rebellion. Keep in mind, too, that people who know that what they are doing is wrong, will often twist truth to make it match their twisted perception of reality in a vain attempt to justify their actions. Not what I or anybody else has said is to blame. They are totally responsible for their actions and their behavior.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me never to twist your truth to make it say what I want it to say. And help me never to justify my own or others' wrongful actions, and help me never to use your truth to manipulate others to make them feel shameful or guilty. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 (NIV).