Breaking Free from the Clutches of Unauthorized Guilt
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My mother-in-law gave me a beautiful Dutch oven for Christmas. Because I had been watching consecutive episodes of Food Network shows, I felt expert in using such fine cooking equipment.
Until I read the instructions.
Cast iron is intimidating. You can’t put it in the dishwasher. Can’t let it air dry. Can’t allow it to change temperatures too quickly. I read the instructions twice before daring to use the thing.
I wish when I had been a young wife and mom that someone had given me such specific instructions for taking care of my heart. The heart is more intimidating than cast iron.
So I’m offering you a list today of things to watch for. The list came about because of a book I was writing called Blameless. I set out to write about the hope we have – that Christ intends to make us blameless. As I wrote, I noticed that becoming blameless means understanding where guilt and blame are legitimate and where they have been imposed by unauthorized sources.
Part of living free of guilt requires peeling away blame and shame that never belonged in our hearts to begin with.
There is guilt that comes from the loving discipline of the Father, such as the guilt we feel when we tell a lie, take something that doesn’t belong to us, or yell at our kids. But there is a faux guilt brought to us by our great enemy.
5 Sources of Unauthorized Guilt
By this, I mean you look back at how your mom did things or how your grandma did things, and you think that if you don’t perform the same way you have failed.
2. Unrealistic Goals
You feel ashamed because you made a goal for yourself and didn’t reach it. Your to-do list had 20 things on it, and you only accomplished 14, so now you are feeling miserable inside.
You see how other wives act. You see how other moms do things. You are different, and you see that difference as failure. Because your birthday cupcakes were store-bought instead of homemade like hers, you feel guilty.
4. Cultural Pressure
Oh, the guilt I have felt if I buy regular bread, because gluten-free is the thing right now. Everyone is telling you how to dress, how to eat, and how to raise your kids. So many voices. How could you possibly listen to them all and feel successful? And the next day they tell you something different. You try to keep up but never can.
Someone called you a name, or maybe you came up with the name yourself. Fat. Lazy. Good-for-nothing. Did Jesus give you that name? Where did it come from?
Jesus gives us this invitation:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)
When we come into relationship with Jesus, He offers us rest from the fatigue of shame. It starts when He looks at our hearts and removes unauthorized guilt. He takes it off of our shoulders and we feel lighter. He is kind and loving. Even when He points out something we need to work on in our lives, He is always gentle and helpful, not accusing and burdensome.
I encourage you to grab a cozy cup of tea and a notebook. Write down the places where you feel overwhelming guilt. Ask God if these are truly from Him or if you could leave them behind.
May the Lord give you hope of a blameless heart.
(Click here to read Elisabeth’s review of Christy’s book, Blameless.)
Photo: Jayme Motley
My father-in-law used to always say, “Guilt comes from the enemy. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit.” When you discern the difference when those feelings come in your own life, it helps you know which direction to take it. <3
Thank you for this article. I’m set free because Jesus takes all the guilt and shame for me!! In your article did you address guilt/shame for past sin (possibly committed before knowin Jesus) and guilt/shame for things other people did (abuse, mom feels guilty for things dad did, etc.) I would love to hear your perspective on them.
Well, you answered your own first question. Any sin we commit (past, present, future) has been carried to the cross by Jesus. We always have to come back to the work he did for us on the cross.
As for guilt and shame about things done to us, I think what we need most is to allow truth to have more weight in our hearts than our feelings do. Our feelings scream at us, but we need to speak the truth to ourselves loudly and clearly. It may be quite a journey with the Lord, to discover what the truth is about the painful experience, but it’s worth searching for.
I hope some of these thoughts help. Certainly guilt and shame are deep topics that are not easily addressed in one short blog post.
Blessings to you,
You’ve got a hearty amen from me, Christy!
Well, I think I need to read that book. ? I’m not a wife or mother, but every point was applicable and timely! Thank you!
Oh, wow. This is such a great reminder! I remember when the Lord taught me something similar in dealing with the condemnation of others when I didn’t act according to their standards. The Lord’s grace and compassion are in direct opposition to condemnation. In fact, it is His kindness (not condemnation) that leads us to repentance- when we truly have something that needs to be repented of.
Thank you for sharing this message!