Healthy vs. Unhealthy Guilt

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

There's a lot to dive into in the realm of guilt, but there is one thing that God has been teaching me recently that I feel compelled to share with you:

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

There is a big difference between healthy and unhealthy guilt.

And to make matters worse, Satan knows the difference.

Here's a few things you need to know about the difference between healthy and unhealthy guilt.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Guilt

First, healthy guilt motivates, helps you grow, and shows you what you need to work on. It says, I got this wrong, but I can do it better next time! Healthy guilt is easily let go of when the time is right. It knows its place, and doesn't try to take up permanent residence in your soul. It is not a punish-er, and does not make your life harder. Although it may seem hard to apologize, forgive, and right wrongs, in the end, healthy guilt makes you a better person and it feels good to do the right thing.

On the other hand, unhealthy guilt causes you to wallow in your mistakes and doesn't allow you to grow or move forward. It plants itself in your heart and takes over your life. Unhealthy guilt says, I did something terrible and I can't live with that mistake. It leads you to hide from people, hurts your relationships, and hurts you.

False Guilt

Second, sometimes your unhealthy guilt is actually false guilt. When you feel guilty about something, you either deserve guilt or you don't. If you don't, but you still feel guilty, that's false guilt. False guilt is unhealthy and undeserved.

A good example would be a child whose parent died in a car accident. Sometimes, the child who survived the accident feels guilty that they are the individual remaining. As they watch their other parent suffer, they convince themselves that it's all their fault and they should be dead instead. They become so convinced that they wallow in this belief to the point that they practically aren't living anymore.

What Can We Do?

Third, unhealthy guilt can become healthy guilt. The best way to move on from a mistake is to turn your unhealthy guilt into healthy guilt so you can learn from it. The trouble is, we tend to wallow in our mistakes instead, digging a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves and making it harder for us to climb back out.

Scripture tells us "No one is righteous— not even one." (Romans 3:10)

We all make mistakes, because we're all perfectly imperfect humans trying to be perfectly perfect. It's crazy. Accepting that you are capable of making mistakes and you did indeed make a mistake will help you shift your perspective from an unhealthy lens to a healthy one. And once you do that, your mind will clear up and it will be clear how to make things right.

I often feel guilty about how my various illnesses keep me from doing my part around the house. Then I become so weighed down by false guilt that I become guilty about wallowing in false guilt. So then I am actually guilty of not doing my part around the house because I let my wallowing distract me from doing what I can while I'm well. It's a crazy cycle to be in!

If I stop for a moment and just ask myself, what is there to be guilty for here? I usually discover the only thing I should feel guilty about is wasting my time feeling guilty. And then I usually have a good laugh at myself and I move on.

Unhealthy guilty will drive us into unhealthy life patterns. Take the time to ask God today what unhealthy patterns you have in your life that are based in unhealthy guilt.

With Love Always,