Guilt is a feeling of conviction that arises from your own sinful actions; “What have I done?” Shame is a painful feeling about who you are as a person because of your actions or the actions of others; “Who am I?” These feelings affect self-perception, how you interact with others, and how you relate to God.
Guilt makes you aware of your sin, sin’s consequences, and your need to repent (change direction). Shame reveals that you are broken human being in need of forgiveness and renewal that only God can provide. Feelings of humiliation, disgrace, and embarrassment about what you’ve done is guilt; these same feelings focused toward how you are perceived as a person (by others, by God, or by yourself) is shame. Guilt, if not addressed biblically, can lead to shame.
People can carry feelings of false guilt and shame, too. False guilt is a feeling of conviction for actions that fail to meet standards that are not God’s standards (these can be other’s expectations, personal standards for yourself, or an event that is not your fault). False shame is when your own low opinion of who you are as a person or your value is determined by something other than God’s opinion of you (your failures, sufferings, or another’s low opinion of who you are, etc.).
God does not want you to carry burdens of guilt or shame. Jesus came to wash away guilt and give you a new identity of eternal significance. He wants to heal you from sin’s damage and for you to see yourself through His eyes. God’s grace offers freedom and purpose for you as a beloved child of God.
Common Characteristics of Those Struggling with Guilt and/or Shame
Sin destroys relationships. Foremost, God allows you to feel the guilt and shame of sin, so that your relationship with Him can be made right.
Christ’s death on the cross satisfies God’s penalty for any sin. This “payment” is a free gift offered to all and credited to you when you receive Christ as Lord. In God’s eyes, when you accept Christ, you are cleansed from sin, made right with Him (justified), and given a new identity as His child who He transforms to become like Jesus (sanctified). If you have not received Christ as Savior, know that God wants to free you from sin’s destruction and to make you new.
• ““Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
TRUE FEELINGS OF GUILT ARE A RESULT OF SIN. THEY REVEAL THAT GOD’S STANDARDS HAVE BEEN VIOLATED AND THAT STEPS OF HEALING ARE NECESSARY FOR YOU AND OTHERS WHO HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY SIN.
Ignoring or denying known sin will not remove feelings of guilt or shame—doing so can make matters worse. Confessing and forsaking sin to follow God’s will, are His path for healing and freedom.
• “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
IF, AFTER RECEIVING CHRIST’S FORGIVENESS, CONFESSING AND MAKING AMENDS FOR YOUR SIN, FEELINGS OF GUILT AND SHAME PERSIST (BECAUSE OF HOW YOU VIEW YOUR SIN, A SIN COMMITTED AGAINST YOU, SHORTCOMINGS THAT ARE NOT SIN, ETC.), YOU MAY BE STRUGGLING WITH FALSE GUILT AND SHAME.
Here are some causes:
IN THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE AGAINST SIN, GUILT, AND SHAME, RECALL THAT YOU HAVE AN ADVOCATE.
Satan wants to keep us trapped by sin (even accusing you of sin already forgiven by God), but Christians have Christ as an advocate. We can trust our Advocate and embrace grace with confidence through Him.
• “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10)
• “…if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
• If you have unconfessed sin, admit it to yourself, confess it to God and to someone you trust (Psalm 32, James 5:16). If you haven’t received Christ’s payment for sin, visit
• When dwelling on a past failure that you’ve confessed and turned from, remember God’s grace. He doesn’t want you to carry a burden that He nailed to the cross. Let reminders of your need for grace, lead you to praise God for His love and for Christ’s sacrifice that cleanses you from sin. Recall that you now belong to Him. Consider memorizing Colossians 2:13-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Titus 3:3-7.
• Find a safe place, like Restoration Pointe, where you can explore if pride or misplaced identity is causing feelings of guilt or shame. (1 John 1:7-9, James 5:16)
• Embrace your new identity in Christ and live in His purpose for you. (2 Cor 5:17-18, Ephesians 5:8-10)