I often hear mothers using guilt to “motivate” their children. “If you loved me, you would do your chores.” “I worked long and hard on this meal, so you better eat it.” Or other people might say, “We’ll have to cancel the event … unless you help us.” And the classic, “Look at these starving kids in Africa and all the food you throw away. Please send money.”
Guilt is an incredible motivator, but that’s not really the correct role and use of guilt. I am all for pointing out injustices and needs and then allowing people to step into their role to help these situations. The issue I am trying to separate from these examples is this: we shouldn’t try to use guilt as a tool to motivate people.
Several subliminal distorted messages can unwontedly occur when people act as a result of feeling guilty. 1. I am responsible for and can control someone else’s feelings through what I do. 2. The other person won’t feel better unless I act the way they want. 3. When you want to get someone to do something for you, it is OK to lay a guilt trip on them. 4. Decisions should be based on self-needs and emotions, not God’s truth, facts, and reasoning … probably the worst message. Unfortunately, these distorted messages subtly seep into many people’s everyday functioning and dramatically interfere with Godly decision-making.
Many pastors and priests try to whip their congregations into Christian action by delivering guilt-inducing sermons. Whether guilting someone to say the sinner’s prayer, give money, volunteer, or stop a certain behavior, the end does not justify the means. I have personally experienced these guilt-evoking messages. And unfortunately, they undermine the very foundation of grace and love that God wants to instill in a believer’s heart.
Today, take notice if you are feeling guilty about something, or if you are inducing guilt in someone else. Stop and examine why guilt is present. Let the guilt warn you a problem exists, but don’t let it be your decision-maker. Let reason and the Bible direct your heart and actions. Confess, repent, apologize, and ask forgiveness. You are responsible for your feelings and happiness; the other person is responsible for his own. Above all else, be mindful that God does not measure and judge you by the amount of good works you do; rather He looks into your heart. Your decision, choose well.
Dear Father God, I do not want to be stressed out about not “doing enough” to be a good Christian. I know that You want me to relax in the assurance of Your perfect love. Today help me remember that You delight in me more than I can ever imagine, that You see me cloaked in Your light and presence … and that there is no condemnation for those cloaked in You. Help me daily, Lord, to come closer to having the Mind of Christ. Help me make decisions based on Your word, not my feelings. Help me feel convicted and guilty about my wrongs, but then look to You for forgiveness, and to Your word for guidance in doing right. I pray in the name of the One who knew no guilt ‘til He bore all mine, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.