How to Decipher and Deal with Guilt, Shame, Conviction and Condemnation

We’ve all experienced guilt at some point in our lives, some more than others. But in the Christian Community, there seem to be two extreme schools of thought. One camp is going to say, there’s so much wrong with me and they feel more holy and humble for beating themselves up all the time. Now, the other camp says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus therefore they vehemently reject any negative feelings.

Many of the feelings associated with guilt and shame, conviction, and condemnation, come as a result of something you did or what someone has done to you. But you’ll want to be very careful because these terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

So let’s go ahead and break down what each of these terms means and how to deal with him in a God-honoring.

For starters: guilt.

Guilt is the result of having violated a specific rule or a law. Guilt is a state or a condition. 2 Corinthians 7:10 reminds us that “Godly sorrow brings repentance, that leads to salvation and leaves, no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death, guilt is a state of unhappiness marked by regret.”

Not a feeling, is it? You could feel guilty and not be and you could not feel guilty and be very guilty. And that is why this whole you have your truth I have mine mentality is so dangerous because it is based upon a dead-end conscience. For example, according to the Bible, we are all guilty before God. Romans 3:10 has an awareness of wrongdoing. It doesn’t usually reflect on the person, there’s usually ownership and accountability.

Hopefully, I could feel guilty for example, for missing an appointment and that guilt should lead me to apologize to the person and take measures to ensure that doesn’t happen again. There actually can be a positive change as a result of guilt.

Let’s move on to shame.

Shame is a feeling of pain that can occur after the feeling of guilt or shame is not just about what you’ve done, but who you are. In the Bible, it is often used to describe a despised state and covering one’s head. Shame has a way of taking a violation of a standard and making it now about oneself. Shame is more self-directed, whereas guilt is more action directed.

When shame is present, you will see an increased sense of anger, aggression, externalizing blame, and rumination. But Romans 10:11 reminds us that “everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  

The next is conviction.

Conviction is an awareness of guilt or wrongdoing in the Bible. It is referred to, as an act of corrective, rebuking conviction, exposes the sin in our lives, and draws us to repentance. John 16:8, says, ”and when the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

Conviction is actually the first step to receiving the forgiveness of Jesus Christ after all, how can you be forgiven for something you don’t know, is wrong, unless you recognize where you’ve fallen short, you cannot receive the gift of forgiveness and grace.

And finally condemnation; condemnation, on the other hand, speaks of being in genuine danger of God’s future judgment being cast out of God’s presence. Condemnation, my friend is unacceptable for believers.

As Romans 8:1 says,” there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” 

And if you are feeling condemned by God, because of your sins, then what you’re saying is that your actions outweigh God’s integrity.  If however, you’re not a believer condemnation may actually very well be accurate but the good news is this, there is a way out of condemnation and that is by accepting Jesus as your Savior and submitting, your life to him.

Then you have access to his throne of grace. And it says in 1st John 1:9, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Condemnation for a believer is the devil’s handiwork.

My friend, if you are feeling wrongly condemned because you felt convicted, this is the enemy sticking the knife in and then twisting it. Yes, we should feel bad for our sin, but after you’ve repented it should never leave you feeling crippled and like a failure, before God and others are here is an example of all of this can play out.

Let’s say I spread a rumor about my friend and as a result, she gets hurt. Guilt says I feel bad for doing something bad. Shame says I am bad. Conviction says I need to right this wrong and condemnation, says it and I am beyond hope.

Now here’s the connection that I’m seeing. This isn’t always the case but for the sake of generalities guilt and conviction fall into the same bucket, and shame and condemnation fall into the same bucket. However, these words and feelings should not be used interchangeably. Just because you feel condemned, just because you feel guilty, doesn’t mean we actually have to give in to that.

We have to do an accurate assessment of course, according to biblical truth because if you do my friend, if you come into these terms interchangeably and you give in, you could be missing what God is trying to address, or you could be ignoring what God is trying to deal with.

It is possible that now that you’ve become a Christian, however, you feel even more guilty than ever in the past, before Christ. In my BC days, I had no issues with sin, but after I became a Christian, I had a heightened awareness of my sinful nature and that’s what the enemy wants to play off of.

But as a Christian, here’s what you need to remember to focus on God’s grace. Yes, repent of your sin. Yes, turn from your wicked ways, but while you’re doing that, also learn to relate to God in his love, get to know him as Father, and live in the New Covenant because you are a new creation. You have been made new it wasn’t that you washed away your sins before my friend and it won’t be you to rectify them now. And if your guilt and condemnation are coming from something that was done to you, I want to encourage you to run into the loving arms of your father and leave that guilt baggage behind.

He is more than happy to take it off your shoulders because my friend, it should never have been there in the first place. Guilt and conviction should be expected in the life of the believer. If you never feel bad for anything that you do, I really question your relationship with Christ because even non-believers experience guilt, however, condemnation is not the lot for the believer ever. Those who come under it have taken demonic bait.

So what do you do when you’re carrying guilt and condemnation?

If you fall in short, repent, my friend, he is faithful to forgive you. If you’ve already done that, tell Satan to skip off and tell your own mind to get in line with God’s truth. And if you’ve ever wondered what God wants you to do with your life, I want to invite you to grab a copy of my FREE Uncover Your God-Given Purpose Guide

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