Life and other catastrophes · Relating to God · Spiritual growth and healing

Guilt trips are no vacation

I love op shops, I admit it. I’m addicted to the thrill of finding wearable treasures in a sea of not-so-lovely stuff.

I also love Italian hot chocolates. They are rarely made the way I like them, but when I find a good one I’m fanatical about it.

I love cooking. Preferably with successful results, but I really just love the process of sifting, stirring, roasting, whatever – it’s therapeutic, and I enjoy seeing ingredients transformed.

I love my husband. I love the way he bounds in the door. I enjoy his anecdotes and jokes, his unusual hobbies, his intellectual insights, and the way he manages to make me feel better when I’ve had a bad day. I just love him.

I love my kids. Both are talkers. I could do with one of those courtroom hammers sometimes so I could shout ‘Order!’ at certain times. They are constantly competing for a place on the podium, and I love their liveliness and negotiating skills.

But do I love these things because someone told me I should? Because someone laid a guilt trip on me? If someone said: ‘It really is your obligation to buy all your clothes from op shops because you owe it to your family to cut costs…’ believe me, I’d feel less like doing it. Or if someone said ‘You really should make a gourmet dinner for eight people in your home this Saturday night instead of having a night out at a restaurant with your husband…” I probably wouldn’t beam with joy.

Sure, some things are to some degree duty-based. I may not always race out of bed at 6.30am to excitedly make breakfast and pack lunches for my kids – but I do it because of what I value on a larger level. I want them to be healthy. No-one is holding a gun to my head saying ‘make them lunch or die!’. I choose to because I care about their welfare, and I’m driven by a natural maternal love for them.

I’m often intrigued by the battle between our free choice or will – and our sense of duty.

Ever had a Christian guilt trip laid on you?

I get frustrated by trite sayings like: “What if you treated your Bible like you treated your mobile (cell) phone?”. Platitudes such as these, of course, hold an element of truth. Reading your Bible is a good thing – the best way, in fact, to hear God speaking to us. And technology can definitely start to take over our lives. But does a statement like that, issued condescendingly, inspire you? Or just make you feel bad?

Gulp.

Some Christians act as though guilt-based statements are godly, instead of remembering that our guilt has been washed away by Jesus.

As Hebrews 10:22 says:

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

As God’s adopted children we are forgiven from our sins, and therefore made free from the guilt (or false pride) that legalistic living produces. Yes, we still have consciences, and we desire to live our lives for God. But we can draw near to Him knowing that our shame has been rubbed out by what He did on the cross, and He will guide us towards His will for our lives – gently and lovingly.

There is definitely a place for helping each other lead better lives – but criticising someone without grace or love is energy badly spent.

Guilt trips never inspire changed lives. They might induce temporary, forced action – but the result is often not a heart overflowing with love for God, and a desire to know Him better. Guilt trips usually inspire a kind of rebellion that takes us away from God.

We’ve become so used to the guilt trip that we’ve become hardened to it, like the child that’s been yelled at to change their attitude for the 50 millionth time. Who can actually command their thinking to change, or do a 180 on their attitude, whatever that means… just because someone tells them to?

Change comes from a variety of sources, and one of the most powerful ones is having a friend or family member in your life who can model what healthy, grace-filled living looks like. The Bible is the most powerful source of wisdom, with endless stories of God’s mercy and love towards flawed people. But God also uses the people in our lives to teach us. As His mouthpieces.

I started this post by revealing some of the things I loved. What about you? What are your passions – and your values in life? What makes you feel alive?

If we weren’t motivated by our desires at all we might never get out of bed. But because of our values, and our longings to enjoy life and grow as people, we push ourselves to do a lot of things that might be hard in the beginning.

Like reading the Bible. Or finding the courage to ask someone out for coffee.

I want to start each day with turning my heart – the place all dreams reside – towards Jesus.

Hebrews 12.2 says:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus didn’t look forward to the torture of the cross, which would secure our forgiveness. But he knew it was the will of His father, and he went through it for the sake of redeeming humanity, and ultimately proving He was God through his resurrection. He did it “for the joy set before him”. The joy of ultimately bringing His lost children home, to (joyfully) worship Him forever.

Let’s ask God to turn our desires towards Him so that all the things we love – and do – flow out of that relationship. May guilt-based, duty-bound living be transformed into an exciting, passionate, faith-filled journey that matches and exceeds absolutely everything on our ‘I love’ lists.

I’d like to leave you with Galatians 5:1:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

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22 thoughts on “Guilt trips are no vacation

  1. Thank you for this post! I’ve been on a journey for over a decade to find freedom to just be, like the branch attached to the vine. As I listen to God and grow with Him, He guides me. Whether that’s to check out Facebook (and send an encouraging note to a friend who’s struggling) or knocking off church so I can be with my family after a long work week, it’s all about following Him every step of the way….and not feeling gulty about obeying His voice.

    1. It can be quite a journey can’t it – but how wonderful just to rest in the Vine, knowing he will guide us. It’s great you are blessing others as a result of hearing the voice of God – not the human voices of guilt, shame and obligation. God bless, and thanks for dropping by 🙂

  2. Was listening to Tim Keller the other day who was speaking on how we tend to view Scripture through our cultural lens. He mentioned, in passing, that our western society, as a whole, tends to be guilt-based while the middle east tends to be shame-based. Would be interesting to step out of our culture and be able to look back at it to see all of the ways that guilt has had a ripple affect on our lives and our decisions; especially our journey with God. Great post!

    1. That’s interesting Rick, that it has a cultural bias – and it would be fascinating to explore it further. I think guilt can be confused with conviction. I guess God convicts, and people lay on the guilt and shame (because of their own guilt and shame). Thanks for reading, and God bless.

    1. I think we all get caught up in them. When I’m feeling ashamed about something, I’m more likely to guilt trip my kids. Thankfully God is gracious and shows us what freedom looks like. Have a great day, Ali

  3. Guilt doesn’t yield the best results – when I do something out of guilt, it’s fulfilling an obligation, not a need in my heart. Even so, I’ve been caught in guilt trips, as well as given them. I love the idea of ditching guilt and letting faith lead our actions.

  4. Yeah, we all get caught up in them don’t we. I like your expression ‘need in my heart’ – dutifully following other people’s expectations or opinions is slavery, but following our hearts, combined with Christ’s leading, is freedom to me.

  5. Great post! It appears people in the world and even the church know how to press that guilt trip button to get people to do what they want, I think its manipulation. However, I’ve found that walking in and embracing the freedom and liberty, that I have in Christ, because He is my new Husband, is offensive to some, but I now see those guilt groups and guilt trips for who and what they are, and stay way away. 🙂

    It’s great because most of the pressure we face in this life is because of “guilt trips”, someone or something is pressing that button, trying to force our hand, in Christ’s liberty I have found it to be no more!

    1. Well said!
      It’s so true – it’s manipulation, and it’s wonderful when God helps us to spot it, and to remember that we can choose to take no part in it, and walk in the freedom offered in Christ.
      Thanks for your encouraging thoughts.

  6. Thank you for this and for getting me thinking about those things I am guilted into . .. or do out of love. Oh and those sayings that can sound like God . . .but they aren’t! Think I’ll be passing on most of those now, if it isn’t scriptural. Didn’t realize that feeling they were sending! Guilt! God bless you as you love Jesus and what you do today!

    1. Thanks Debbie – it’s good to be discerning isn’t it, as ‘wise sounding’ statements can be masquerading as something else altogether.
      God bless you too as you follow our ever-loving Father,
      Ali

  7. I really liked this post. The church sign kind of annoyed me. It’s frustrating to see people put words in God’s mouth, though I’m sure I’ve probably done it before too. So I can’t judge. If it was so simple then more people would obey the guilt trips….but you’re right……it has to be in someone’s heart. It’ll be great when we get to heaven and everything is clear…..I think we’ll be so surprised when we are able to see & hear God in his fullness (if that’s even possible there…) We’ve probably been wrong about soooo many things. God bless & love!

    1. I know hey… We’re often so flawed in the way we can twist things, but thankfully God is gracious and keeps reminding us who He really is, if we would have eyes to see. God bless Amber!

  8. dear Godgirl, I love your blog. Just wanted to let you know. The things you write really hit home with me. I started a blog myself, but have had a hard time keeping up with it. I’m going to try and be better posting as soon as I get out of school! thanks for your wonderful blog, and please keep it up.

    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging comments, and for following my blog. All the best with your own – I’ve started them before and struggled to keep them going, but I felt the time was right for this one. All the best, and I look forward to reading your posts in the future! Blessings,
      Ali

  9. Beautiful. I needed to hear this today. Guilt is something I battle on a regular basis. Jesus died to take away that guilt though, and remembering that for me is something that is very important to do. Thanks for posting this and have a good day!

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