You Make Me Feel So Guilty!

Have you ever noticed how often people (okay, women) say, “I feel so guilty”? Or, “You make me feel guilty!” Or  “You shouldn’t feel guilty about that!” I think it happens quite a bit in casual conversation between women.  But first let me define guilty. Guilt is when you have committed a crime or broken one of God’s commandments. You have done wrong. It is a serious thing to be guilty. But often we use it to just mean that we feel bad. Let me give some examples.

Guilty Example #1. You ate something (delicious) and now you feel guilty. You tell yourself you are a big loser because you ate it. Your friend dashes by on her morning run, and you haven’t exercised in a week. You feel so guilty. Should you feel guilty? True guilt is connected to real sin. Did God forbid that you eat it? Did He insist on the exercise?  No, but you are counting calories, and that sent you over the limit. You let yourself down. So next time eat a carrot. But don’t convict yourself of sin over it. You can’t confess that kind of guilt to God, because He is not going to forgive you for something like that. What you may need to confess is making up rules for Him.

Guilty Example #2. You show your friend the curtains you made or the sweater you knit or the garden you planted or the bread coming out of the oven, and she says, “You make me feel so guilty!” Now there are several possibilities here. First, maybe she is trying to give you a compliment, and she doesn’t know how to do it, so she compliments you on making her feel bad about her own failings compared to your achievements. Not a very complimentary compliment. And I doubt that she is really thinking this through. Second possibility is that she is envious of your achievements, and so this is her response. She doesn’t want to give you a straight-up compliment, so you get a back-handed criticism instead. It seems in a way as though her comment is designed to try and make you  feel guilty for showing her your curtains, as though you were at fault for being so crafty. Then you will probably quit showing her the stuff you do, and you may even feel guilty for making her feel guilty. Not exactly helpful in any direction. How much better to leave her guilty feelings out of it and simply say, “Oh, they are gorgeous!”

Guilty Example #3. Let’s say you hear a sermon or read something about how you should be honoring your parents or respecting your husband or loving your kids. Your response is something like, “I don’t like his sermons because they just make me feel guilty.” Let’s look at this. If by guilt you mean that you are convicted of dishonoring your parents or disrespecting your husband or being mean to your kids, then you should by all means feel guilty. If this kind of guilty is a godly sorrow, it drives us to repentance, and that is a good thing. That kind of guilty is healthy. I would prefer that we call it conviction of sin. If you read an article against shop-lifting and you have never shop-lifted in your life, you should not feel guilty, you should not feel a conviction of sin. You are innocent of shop-lifting. But if a sermon reveals to you that you’ve been letting something slide, then thanks be to God! The Holy Spirit is convicting you and Jesus has made provision for your forgiveness. Go to Him and receive it. Christianity is the religion for us sinners! Christians ought to want to grow, which means getting rid of the bad things and adding new things. God cuts off the dead branches and causes fruit to grow. He uses sermons and books to teach us, and when we learn, we will learn what we should stop doing and what we should begin doing. This is not something to “feel guilty” about. We should identify conviction of sin as a good thing.

If you feel convicted by the sermon on shop-lifting and realize you have to return some stuff, and a well-meaning friend says, “Oh don’t feel guilty about that! I do it all the time,” you should not find comfort in her confession. We women sometimes tell one another not to feel guilty when we ought to leave well enough alone. True conviction of sin is good because it leads to repentance. Feeling guilty about eating that cookie is not conviction of sin (unless you stole it). So stop it. Enough with the guilt!

Here’s what I think the bottom line is on this topic. We ought to quit letting other women’s successes provoke envy or jealousy in our hearts. We should be content. Then we can enjoy and benefit from their fruitfulness rather than “feeling guilty” over it. We ought to quit feeling guilty over stupid things, and we should encourage one another, where there is real sin, to repent.

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15 thoughts on “You Make Me Feel So Guilty!

  1. I’m SO guilty of these things you pointed out heehee 😉
    BUT I’m very grateful the Lord lead me to your lovely site and that He ministered to me through your article.
    You pointed out many things I struggle with. I’m going through a season of chastisement if you will, its hard but I know He is faithful to carry me through.
    Thank you.

  2. I don’t read blogs that make me feel bad about myself because, like you pointed out, I should only feel bad over a conviction of sin. One of the reasons why I love your blog is because I have never felt bad about myself over something that isn’t bibical/the Gospel. So thank you.

  3. Wow, I never thought of it like that. I’m going to be more discerning when it comes to my “guilty feelings” from now on.

  4. Thank you for this. I have gotten to a point of not sharing certain things with a couple of women because I sense they compare themselves and feel threatened or SOMETHING that makes me very uncomfortable. I am guilty of trying to act “clueless” in order to make them feel comfortable. This is wrong. Even lately I’ve felt led to blog things and I’ve had to lay down the possibility of this kind of reaction from them. This probably doesn’t make sense, but anyway, thanks for this post!

  5. Amen! There is a distinct difference between godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. We surely need to consider the impact of our words, I have been guilty of saying those very stupid things you referred to. Great topic that hit home for me.

  6. I think about this a lot, esp now in the throes of a first trimester. Under normal circumstances, my dropping so many balls would just be sheer laziness and self-indulgence. As it is, I still have a hard time not feeling guilty for my general worthlessness.

  7. Thank you so much for this article! It reminds me of a favourite quotation from A. W. Tozer: ‘Apart from sin we have nothing of which to be ashamed.’

  8. I am a missionary living in a closed country and feel guilty ALL THE TIME when a GOOD blessing happens to us! (enough money to buy a foreign treat, a beautiful home, a family vacation to a place my friends living in America could only dream of) The Lord has been helping me find peace in Him, to be joyfully thankful, and not feel guilty for His gifts and blessings! I loved this article. Thank you for writing!

  9. Thank you, Nancy, for yet another article that nails a problem and its answer in my life. I think that often my feelings of guilt are tied to a lack of gratefulness for the gifts and inclinations that are His gifts to equip me for the life He has given me. We should not expect our loaves and fish offered in faith to be exactly the same. (I am forever grateful to Rachel for that life-changing post a year or so ago.) The metaphor of the race is helpful to me in this area of “guilty by comparison” — eyes riveted on the One waiting at the taut line, casting glances sideways often and only to spur on or take courage from His enabling grace to others.

  10. Nicely put. #2 especially I’m getting a lot lately – even from the “experts” – saying that nobody should do this or that childrearing practice because it will make the people who don’t or can’t do it feel guilty. Meh. I shouldn’t feel guilty for causing someone else to feel unnecessary/inaccurate guilt!

  11. i think a prime way women fall prey to this is natural childbirth. if you want to squeeze one out the old fashioned way, all the power to you. some chicks are tough! but don’t do it because of guilt or shame. when god has made you free, don’t become the slave of any man. or woman. run a marathon because you like victory, don’t because all your friends have sexier legs. our motives so easily can glorify our actions or cheapen them. the path of gratitude is always the most glorious. it makes us shine while fear makes us tawdry. a hard thing done because of guilt will serve to make you proud, while the same action born of love and peace will make you gracious. just thinking. *m

  12. Another aspect to this is when a woman feels guilt because she expects so much of herself (not God’s expectations) she tends to be critical of other women. Why? Because if she feels guilty for having lunch with a friend rather than making a hospital visit, then she is going to put that same attitude on the girl next door who is having lunch with her friend. In other words, your guilt ends up making you be critical of others and the cycle continues. Good article!

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