Wrestling with Guilt

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I had been wrestling for the last several days with this decision. Waffling back and forth like a ping pong ball in constant motion during a tournament.

Yes, no. No, yes.

“I need your help,” I told my hubby, a whine in my voice and frustration oozing from my pores.

“About what?” he asked.

Clearly he was not reading my mind like I wished.

“I have a decision.”


And I laid out my dilemma.

It had all begun with a phone call during an unhurried part of my day. This lady I knew, who I admired, called me and started telling me that she had been praying and my name had jumped to her mind. Well, that made me sit up and listen a little closer.

She spoke about how she knew I was organized and good at running things. She had seen my people skills. I sat up taller still, and felt like a cat getting petted.

Then she talked about this organization we both belonged to and how she would be stepping down from her important role and she was wondering if I would like to take her place. She knew I would be a good fit.

I slouched a bit. Wait, whoa! She had a big job. She was important. She ran a large part of the organization.

I asked her some questions about time commitment. Big. Duties. Lots.

She encouraged me to pray about it and get back to her.

I hung up conflicted.

wrestlingwithguilt3 wrestlingwithguilt4wrestlingwithguilt13And that was what I was trying to explain to my husband. It was a great opportunity. I would be doing lots of important stuff. And just imagine, she thought of and asked me to take over this job. Me. It was all so flattering and ego stroking.

And yet, it would take a lot of time. Family time. Daily time. There would be a learning curve. Did I really want to tackle this job when I was really wanting to work on starting my podcast and blog? Would it be too much or cut into our precious family time?

I had prayed about it. No real answer had emerged.

My hubby listened to me paint this picture and name my dilemmas.

Then he turned and asked, “So do you want to do this job?”

“I know I would be good at it. I know they need me. I feel flattered that I was considered.”

His face wrinkled into frustration. “Yes, but do you really want this job?”

I wanted to be honest. “Not right now at this time of my life.” I paused. “But I feel guilty about turning it down. I feel guilty about disappointing her.”

“Say No,” he said.


“Theresa, you should never make a decision based upon guilt or shame. When you do, you will come to regret that decision.

I let his words sink in. Yes, I was feeling guilt over both accepting and declining the job. Guilt smeared and spread around for both yes and no. Guilt I was self-manufacturing.

I looked at him. I had married a smart one.

It wasn’t easy to call the lady back, but I did. And then I felt much better.

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Guilt and shame should not be motivators for us to do something or decide something. They never promote peace and joy. Instead they promote fear. Fear of disappointing and of doing the wrong thing. Decisions based on guilt and shame often cause resentment, anger, regret, and frustration.

I did what my sister in Mississippi does. I wrote myself a little sticky note and pressed it onto my kitchen cabinet door as a reminder. “Decisions based on guilt and shame are always bad decisions.” I underlined bad decisions.

Then I thought about this for a while and realized I have been known to use guilt and shame sometimes on people in my life. To shame or guilt a child into cleaning their bedroom, doing their best, or to attend a function they don’t want to.

I don’t want to do this.

Guilt can be a strong motivator. But it is not a healthy one.

wrestlingwithguilt11 wrestlingwithguilt12This world has enough guilt and shame, which promote fear within us. And then we guilt and shame ourselves plenty, plenty.

I instead want to be like God. He doesn’t shame us into loving him. Guilt us into loving our neighbor. No, he uses plain old fashioned encouragement and love.

And you know what? Love casts out fear. Love erases guilt and shame.

Perfect love casts out fear. – I John 4:18


And so, at the bottom of my sticky kitchen note, I wrote, “God uses Love,” and drew a heart.


Join the discussion: Do decisions based on guilt or shame leave you feeling good? Have you said yes to something based upon guilt or shame?

Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart)