Illegitimate Guilt

Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between a legitimate feeling of guilt and an illegitimate one. What I mean is, when someone I respect or love disapproves of a choice I make, I feel so bad about disappointing them that I start to feel like I’ve actually done something wrong. Even if it’s not wrong, just something they don’t like.

It’s even worse when they bring God into the equation.

Because if it’s a Christian who is disappointed in me, I feel that by proxy, God is, too (even though I know intellectually and theologically that that isn’t true). Then everything I read in the Bible is read with that lens even if the Bible is not actually endorsing that person’s subjective opinion.

I am way too swayed by the stances of other people.

I keep reminding myself that just because someone else thinks God would be disappointed in my choice, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is. When he calls each one of us to listen for his direction, sometimes that means he sends one person on an entirely different path than what is deemed desirable or acceptable to the rest of the clan.

Don’t let your people-pleasing tendencies pull you down a path you are not meant to be on. Listen to what God wants you to be doing instead of feeling guilty for not doing what another person thinks God wants you to be doing. We all have enough real guilt in our lives to deal with. So let’s deal with that and leave the fake stuff to fall by the wayside.

The caveat:
Sometimes the person offering an illegitimate guilt trip is thoroughly convinced that their perspective has been received or validated by God, and it very well may have been for them. But I think sometimes they mix up which lessons God intended for them vs what is meant for them to share with others. It would serve us well to consider what others have to say and to discern carefully whether it applies to our own life or not.

Our lives are all so different—let’s stop pushing illegitimate guilt onto others, and let’s stop absorbing the illegitimate guilt they bring.