True guilt and false guilt feelings

By Dave Henning / March 30, 2023

“The distinction between true guilt and false guilt is a crucial one to make.  Why? Because time will not heal true guilt. . . .  The only way to deal with true guilt is to take it to the grace and mercy of God.  On the other hand, moral effort and prayer will not heal false guilt.  The only way to deal with false guilt is to take it to the will of God and understand it in the light of his Word.”- Timothy Keller (emphasis author’s)

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”- Psalm 51:3 (NIV)

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 9 of Forgive, he takes a look at what Psalm 51 teaches us about repentance.  Therefore, Pastor Keller notes, Psalm 51 teaches us three things we must stop doing and two things we must start doing.  Finally, there’s one thing to receive.  Today, Pastor Keller takes a look at the first counterfeit of repentance.

1.  The Counterfeits of Repentance – Blame Shifting.  In blame shifting, you apologize, but insist the offense wasn’t really your fault.  However, repentance takes full responsibility for sin.  So, the author lists three ways to shift the blame:

  • justify your sin – writer Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) called this “painting sin with virtue’s colors”
  • shift responsibility – for example, you regret saying something, but argue that the other person provoked you
  • insist the accuser exaggerated – you admit you probably shouldn’t have committed the offense, but remind your accuser that he/she once treated you the same way; or you blame your accuser for being far too sensitive

Hence, Pastor Keller underscores, you must end the blame shifting before you begin to deal with your guilt.  Thus, you don’t blame God for being too harsh or place the blame for your sin on circumstances or someone else.  Because blame shifting is a most dangerous thing to do.

Today’s question: How would you assess most of your feelings – as true guilt or false guilt?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Wallowing in self-pity”

About the author

Dave Henning

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