Our biggest sale! 50% off your PLUS subscription. Use code SUMMER

Are You Motivated By Grace or Guilt? Shake Off Feelings of Guilt

Originally published Tuesday, 22 November 2011.

The Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why would we be motivated by feelings of guilt rather than grace?

Some people dream of gold paved streets and flying around like Peter Pan when it comes to enjoying heaven one day. One of the eternal amenities I'm looking forward to is living in a dust-free zone.

I was really young when I got my back pricked in a matrix like sequence. That was nothing compared to the fire that broke out on my skin in rows as the lab technician dropped bombs of allergens into each micro-pinhole. In less time it takes for a bagel to get toasted, I sported a painful set of reddened dots that made me walk around like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

That's how feelings of guilt make me feel.

Guilty feelings are free agents that float around like dust. They are hard to avoid over extended periods. Just like dust appears from nowhere but can be found anywhere, feeling bad about something I did, didn't do or did wrong easily clings to my conscience.

I beat myself up.

I replay my mistakes.

I waste enormous amounts of energy re-enacting how I could have done it differently.

I feel bad. I feel that I am bad.

I try to shake off those feelings of guilt, but they can ferociously settle right back. No matter how hard I try.

That is my problem with feeling guilty --- I try to get rid of them.

Why It's Hard To Let Go of Guilt

One of the reasons it's hard to let go of our guilty feelings is that it feels safe.

We are our own boss and we can solve our own guilt. We can pay for our mistakes or live with them and owe nothing to no one. We're used to dealing with guilt the same way we handled our imperfections before we met God:

- Hide or pretend they didn't bother us.

- Used fear or punishment to motivate our corrective actions or behaviors.

- Rebel against anyone or anything that tried to control us.

- Get depressed, live with regret.

We may be motivated by guilty feelings out of habit, as a learned response and also as a preferred choice.

Beautiful and Hard Grace

As Christians, we changed. We received a new nature. We became loved, someone Jesus paid for our wrongs with His sacrifice. We are forgiven. Our new life motivates us to live under continual grace.

Grace is beautiful and free, but it is hard for us independent-prone people to practice. It's even harder to believe something so unconditional and lavish would actually endure and not go away.

It is difficult to live under grace because it means we can no longer make-up for our mistakes.  God calls us to simply accept His forgiveness and live in gratitude to Him.

Giving thanks requires more faith than merely speaking this phrase during the month of November.

Giving thanks means I have to let go of trying to fix the past -- and start focusing on the changes God wants me to make in the future.

Being thankful calls me to live as beloved and favored child through my Heavenly Father's eyes -- rather than holding an angry or frustrated attitude towards my imperfections.

Gratitude stops being used as generic church lingo and becomes a heartfelt, confident prayer -- as I stop trying to meet other people's standards and start responding to God's love and acceptance.

Guilty Feelings Do Not Come From God

Before we belonged to God, the Holy Spirit was used to convict us of sin (John 16:7-17). But, once the Holy Spirit started living inside of us, Jesus said it was given to us as a gift--

-- As a Helper. "I will send the Helper to you... When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth." John 16:7-17

-- To lead us in the truth and freedom from the Law (not accuse us of our wrongs). John 16:14, Gal 5:16 "It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Therefore.. do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery." Gal. 1:1,16-18

-- Helps us in our weakness and prays for us when we can't (who does not condemn us or punish us). "...the Holy Spirit helps our weaknesss.. the Spirit Himself interceeds for us with groanings too deep for words. He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Rom.8:16, 26, 27

Just as dust is a continual allergen, feelings of guilt can threaten our well-being. The truth is that guilt doesn't have a place in heaven. Grace, on the other hand, lives on into eternity. It's mind-boggling we are given a choice to choose. It is an inspiring and motivating gift we're given to open everyday. Or not.

"Yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."
~  The Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 7:9-11


What has encouraged you to shake off feelings of guilt?

What do you think causes us to operate out of guilt rather than grace?

What encourages gratitude in you?

Pull up a chair. I savor your thoughts and your stories. Click to share a comment.


By Bonnie Gray, the FaithBarista serving up shots of faith for everyday life.


Join Bonnie at http://www.FaithBarista.com, on Facebook or Twitter.

Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind.  Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.

** Don't miss! ** If you would like to receive new articles by Faith Barista, click to subscribe by email and get each post in this series served up hot and fresh directly in your mailbox. Free.

Photo credit: Photobucket.