Month: June 2021

144 – Don’t Let False Guilt Hinder Your Writing

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Don't Let False Guilt Hinder Your Writing Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungGuilt, real guilt, serves a purpose in our faith and lives. But, as he often does, Satan has taken something God intended for good and warped it. Enter false guilt. We’ll share how to identify it—and escape it—so that you and your writing shine God’s light in this weary world.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

In our last podcast, The Gift of Guilt, we explored what true guilt was and how God uses it in our lives. Today, we’re talking about something completely different: false guilt. The trouble is, it seems the same as true and healthy guilt. But it’s not. Far from it.

Surprisingly, Webster’s doesn’t have a definition for the term false guilt. But here’s what it has to say about false:

: not genuine

: intentionally untrue; adjusted or made so as to deceive; intended or tending to mislead

: treacherous

: lacking naturalness or sincerity

: based on mistaken ideas

: inconsistent with the facts

: threateningly deceptive

It’s pretty clear that something false is all about misleading us, about treacherous deception. And that’s exactly what false guilt is: it’s a deception that leads us to create negative perspectives and feelings about ourselves. We’re not just at fault, false guilt tells us we’re bad or that there’s something wrong with us. And we don’t just deserve punishment, we don’t deserve forgiveness or restored relationships, not with others and not with God.

We all know how guilt feels, because we know when we’ve done something we shouldn’t, or haven’t done something we should. But there are other times…times when there’s that vague sense that something is wrong. You’re not sure what or why, but deep inside is the certainty that whatever is wrong, it’s your fault.

Maybe you set a daily writing goal for yourself, but, you know, life. Things happened that made it perfectly reasonable that you couldn’t meet the goal. But you still feel…guilty. Even bad. You’re letting everyone down. You’re letting God down. Your mind starts down the “I’ll never finish this book, I can’t even meet my daily goals!” track, and that leads you merrily along the path of “Why on earth did I think God could use someone like me? I’m useless.” And so it goes.

Or maybe you haven’t heard from a friend for awhile. A friend who usually gets in touch with you on a regular basis. When you realize that person hasn’t done so for quite some time, the false guilt starts trying to slip in. And darned if you don’t let it. Suddenly you’re thinking, “So what did I do wrong? Did I make her mad? Did I offend her when she told me she wanted to go see a depressing movie and I said I like happy movies instead of depressing ones?”

And off you go! If you two were really friends, she wouldn’t mind that you don’t like the same things! Why do you always mess things up? And on and on, until you reach the firm conclusion that you’re a terrible friend and you don’t deserve her. Or she’s a terrible friend and you’re done with her. Either way, it leads to destruction.

Or a teacher calls you and says, “Hey, your daughter came to school without lunch today.” Your response? “I’m so sorry!” Followed by the thought, “I’m a terrible mother.”

Or you put a LOT of time and effort into a class on writing. When you teach it, 99% of the students come up afterward and tell you how great it was. But then that one person leaves the class without saying anything. And he looked…disgruntled. False guilt whispers, “Did he not like the class? Did it not meet his needs?” And you pick up the baton and fly with it. “Dang it! I knew I should have taught something different. I didn’t even include (fill in the blank). How could I forget that? I’m useless!”

Sure, some of these examples seem extreme. But are they really? The truth is, Satan is always waiting to send false guilt into your heart and spirit so it can put down roots and, like an evil weed, push out your confidence in God’s love and provision.

When you let yourself buy into false guilt, when you fall into the pit of false guilt, it becomes self-fulfilling. Because you’re bad or there’s something inherently wrong with you, and because you don’t deserve healthy relationships with people or God, you end up isolating yourself, growing more and more antisocial. Soon you’re wondering why no one wants to be around you. Which only affirms that you’re no good and no one wants to be around someone as awful as you. Nor would they ever want to read anything you’ve written! Look how terrible you are. How could God possibly use your writing to express His love and grace?

In his article, “Why Shame and Guilt Are Functional For Mental Health,” psychologist Joaquin Selve points to a study done in 2016 focusing on guilt and shame. One aspect of that study looked at the experience of both guilt and shame. Two conclusions from that study seem especially telling.

The first affirms what we said in our podcast on the Gift of Guilt. “People who feel guilt are more likely to want to repair the damage they may have caused than people who felt shame.” Guilt is a true and healthy motivator that God uses to draw us to repentance and restoration. So YAY for guilt! True guilt, that is.

Then there’s false guilt, which almost always instills in us a sense of shame. When it comes to shame, the study concluded that “people who feel shame are more likely to avoid eye contact than people who feel guilty.” How telling is that?

Eye contact is a vital part of being in relationship with each other. It’s a sign of connection, of vulnerability, of care for one another. When someone intentionally avoids eye contact, that can be an early sign that this person is starting to isolate herself, or that he doesn’t feel worthy of the connection, or that she is afraid if she makes eye contact, you’ll see right through her to the core of the terrible person she is.

Likewise, being authentic and vulnerable are vital aspects of writing God’s truths. We can’t move people’s hearts or minds if we’re writing from behind the curtain. Like the Wizard of Oz, we have to pull back the curtain of our real selves, letting our readers see the good, the bad, AND the ugly. But if you’re steeped in shame because of false guilt, doing that doesn’t just seem impossible, it seems dangerous.

Dr. Mary Lamia, in her article “Shame: A Concealed and Dangerous Emotion,” had this to say about shame:

“As a self-conscious emotion, shame informs us of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor, regret, or disconnection….Shame can lead us to feel as though our whole self is flawed, bad, or subject to exclusion, it motivates us to hide or to do something to save face. So it is no wonder that shame avoidance can lead to withdrawal or to addictions that attempt to mask its impact.”

No wonder false guilt seems to be one of Satan’s favorite tools to use against believers. Sadly, false guilt is especially effective when used to demoralize or sideline writers seeking to serve God in their work. Think about it. We’ve talked before about how so many Christians writers struggle with feeling like imposters. The whole, “If they knew who I really was, they’d never read my books” routine. Or, “Someday someone is going to realize I haven’t a clue what I’m doing! It’s all an act. I don’t have any talent at all!”

It only makes sense, then, that the same minds and spirits that can be detoured by imposter syndrome are also painfully susceptible to false guilt. And you know what? False guilt doesn’t just focus on making us feel shame when we think, or feel like, we’ve done something wrong. It dredges up wrongs from the past to substantiate just how awful we are.

GotQuestions.org says this about the way Satan uses false guilt against us:

“He brings to mind our most horrible sin—sometimes imagined, but also those God or others have forgiven—and causes us to focus on our terrible selves rather than on God’s forgiveness.”

I mean, of course God forgave me, but how could I have done that? I’m so awful. God has to forgive me, He’s GOD. But I just can’t forgive myself. And on it goes…

If you’ve ever said or thought something like that, about God forgiving you but you can’t forgive yourself, you need to stop, RIGHT NOW, and repent of that attitude. Because what you’re doing when you let yourself think or believe that is putting yourself above God. You’re saying God’s forgiveness isn’t sufficient. That your forgiveness is harder to come by and more important than God’s. What’s more, you’re saying God is a liar. Scripture tells us in Psalms 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (NIV)

The Barnes Commentary on this Scripture brings the point home:

“As far as the east is from the west – As far as possible; as far as we can imagine. These are the points in our [understanding] that are most distant from each other. We can conceive nothing beyond them, so the meaning is, that we cannot imagine any way our sins could be more effectively removed than what God does in removing them… He has…put our sins entirely away. They are so removed that they cannot affect us any more. We are safe from all condemnation for our sins, as if they had not been committed at all.”

Friends, when God forgives, it’s over. The sin is gone, erased. There is no, “I can’t forgive myself.” There is only “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

All of which brings us back to why false guilt is so insidious and dangerous. It whispers to us, “Has God really forgiven you? Then why do you still feel guilty?”

Remember, false guilt is about deceptions, about keeping you deep in the darkness of unnecessary feelings of guilt and not being worth anything. Satan doesn’t want you to figure out the cause of those feelings, to actually know why you feel so full of shame, because if you knew that, you could take it to God. That’s the last thing Satan wants. He does everything he can, unleashes every foul tactic, to keep you from going to God and being truly forgiven. Because you know what God’s forgiveness brings: freedom!

So the enemy uses false guilt to convince you, through untrue “facts,” that you can’t be forgiven. But he’s not the only one who uses false guilt against us. Sometimes, fellow believers do so. And sometimes we do it all on our own.

An InTouch Ministries devotional titled, “The Burden of False Guilt,” shares the three bridges—actions or attitudes or behaviors—that often lead us deep into false guilt: legalism, perfectionism, and trying to please people.

Legalism

Legalism focuses on man-made rules rather than on what Scripture says is right and wrong. And we all know how easy it is for man’s rules to become the measuring stick of faith and witness. Legalism leads to judgmentalism and pride, and to a faith based on works. None of which “has power for salvation or transformation but instead enslaves us to false guilt” because we can never, in our own power, keep the rules. Heck, we can’t even know what the rules are because they keep changing!

Perfectionism

There’s an old saying: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” In other words, good is never good enough. In fact, nothing is ever good enough.

You can’t turn that manuscript in on time because you know you can do better with it. Your sales aren’t what you’d hoped, so this whole writing thing was obviously a waste of time. Whatever made you think you could do it in the first place?

Jon Bloom, in his article “Lay Aside the Weight of Perfection,” describes it this way:

“Perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that either fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly or paralyzes us from acting at all—both of which often result in the harmful neglect of other necessary or good things.”

For those who take on the bondage of perfectionism, they have to perform to their self-imposed standards, which are seldom reasonable or necessary, or they’ve failed. And failure is the unforgivable sin.

Perfectionism is definitely something I (Erin) struggle with. My dad always used to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Somewhere along the way, my little mind turned that into, “Anything worth doing must be done perfectly.” But those aren’t the words he used, and it’s certainly not what he meant.

Still, I became overly critical of myself. It doesn’t help that I’m a detail oriented person. So I see lots of flaws in everything I do. That’s a recipe for a boatload of dissatisfaction if I let things carry on in that direction. But worse, it’s ridiculous and prideful to think I can do anything perfectly. Perfection is for God alone. I need to remember my place. It’s not just okay, but human, to be imperfect. Sure, I should always do my best, but I need to define and accept that as always, in some way shape or form, in varying degrees, less than perfect and in need of grace.

Furthermore, perfectionism can cause us to focus too much attention on ourselves, rather than on God, where it belongs. As the InTouch devotional states: “Christians are commanded to live for Christ, not for themselves and their own expectations.”

Trying to Please People

Of course, as writers, we work to make our stories pleasing to our readers. But this is something different. This is when we make pleasing everyone, no matter what we have to do to accomplish it, our focus. And if everyone isn’t happy with us, we’ve failed.

This kind of people pleasing is not just debilitating—because you really can’t please all the people all the time—it’s crazy-making. It’s looking to other fallible, sinful humans to define you and tell you whether or not you’re worthwhile. Or whether or not your writing is worthwhile. It’s reading reviews religiously to see what people think. But you know what that does? You are elated at the good reviews, and demolished by the bad ones. Doesn’t matter how many good ones there are, the bad ones are the ones that stick with you. Focusing on pleasing anyone but God is not just foolish, it’s crazy-making.

Think about it. Say you’re working a full-time job, taking care of your family, AND doing the task of writing that God has given you. Then you get a call from someone who wants you to come teach a workshop on writing to his writing group. You know you can’t. You know you’ll have to short something else to do it. As if this guy can tell you’re about to decline, he says, “You know, God has given you a gift and you need to share it.”

Oh yeah. He pulled the “God wants you to do this” card. Which wasn’t his to pull in the first place. But now your people pleasing side kicks in because what if he tells his group that you refused because you think you’re too big now to speak to small groups, or that you don’t listen to God? And boom! Just like that, false guilt steps in and you’re not fulfilling an already-accepted responsibility to take on something God never intended you to take on.

False Guilt from Childhood Trauma

There’s another powerful source of false guilt, and that’s a painful or traumatic childhood. If you grow up being taught that every word, every action is unacceptable. Not good enough, you end up believing that. And feeling shame and false guilt. You carry them into adulthood as your constant companions and critics.

But false guilt doesn’t just hurt us, especially where legalism is concerned. We don’t just end up in bondage ourselves, but we try to put others in bondage as well. We judge their actions, words, faith, and so on, based on what we feel is right, regardless of what Scripture says.

We hear about a fellow writer receiving some award or accolade, and we think how unworthy that person is: “If those in charge knew what that writer did/said/or whatever,” sometimes based on what we ourselves have witnessed, but more often than not based on hearsay, “there’s no way they’d have given that unworthy person an award/contract/whatever.” It’s a vicious cycle and Satan delights when you get caught in it.

What to Do About False Guilt

So what can we do about false guilt when we realize it’s rearing it’s oh-so-ugly head?

  • The moment you have a sense of guilt and shame, ask God to reveal to you what it’s about. Pray and read Scripture with the purpose of revealing the true source of your feelings.
  • Share what you’re feeling with trusted friends and advisors. Ask them to pray with you that God will reveal the source of what you’re feeling.
  • Wait. On God, on His truth and revelation. And be at peace. You’ve done what you need to. If it’s true guilt, God will make that clear to you. What’s more, if it’s true guilt, He will show you how to resolve it.
  • If no revelation is forthcoming, and the feelings just won’t leave you alone, you can be pretty sure false guilt is at play. In that case, the solution is seemingly easy, but for those predisposed to buying into false guilt, it can be tough. Here are three steps to freedom from shame and false guilt:
      1. Accept God’s forgiveness and restoration. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
      2. Embrace with both arms the truth of Christ’s atonement, that it covers us completely. 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
      3. Know that in Christ, you are free from ANY condemnation. Even your own. Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Friends, God knows our hearts! His forgiveness is forever. No feeling or deception can change that truth. We can rest assured before Him and we can agree with Jesus, in full confidence when He says in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

If you’ve taken your sense of guilt and shame to God, if you’ve surrendered to Him, even if you have no idea why you’re feeling the way you are, and you’ve asked His forgiveness, then…

Your. Sins. Are. Forgiven.

Now, forever.

What is false guilt and how does it affect your writing? #amwriting #Christianwriter @karenball1 Share on X
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What helps you discern the difference between true and false guilt?

THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com.

Today we’re covering commandment number 8: Thou shalt surround thyself with savvy authors.

Thomas says, “There are some things you can only learn from other authors. The savvier your friends are, the more you will learn.”

My experience makes me agree with this. I’ve had a number of wonderful author friends throughout my career who’ve taught me plenty. But I’ve also been blessed to be part of a mastermind group, and that’s the one thing I wish I’d done 5 years sooner in my career.

For any of you out there interested in mastermind groups, Thomas Umstattd hosts a handful of mastermind groups. Each group is limited to 10 authors, and they meet monthly over Zoom. They also share a Slack Workspace where they answer each other’s questions throughout the month, cheer progress, and keep up. If you are looking for a place to connect with savvy authors and with Thomas, you can learn more about Thomas’s masterminds here.

For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out. K.D. Aster, thanks, and keep writing!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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143 – The Gift of Guilt

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Gift of Guilt Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

No one likes feeling guilty. Knowing they’ve done something wrong or hurt someone by their actions, or by their spoken or written words. Even believers too often seem steeped in guilt, held back from doing what God has asked them to do, like write His truths to people. But the reality is that guilt is a gift that God uses to make you a better person—and writer—than you ever imagined. Come see how!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Guilt. Most people feel it. And hate it. It’s one of those emotions you never want to experience, and yet it tends to invade our lives all the time. But why? After all, those of us who follow Christ shouldn’t feel guilty about anything, should we? All our sins are covered by Christ’s sacrificial, restoring act on the cross. We’re forgiven, now and forever. So what place does guilt have in the life of a believer… and the life of a writer?

I (Karen) confess, I wondered about that myself. Are we, as God’s children, who’ve been restored to Him by the blood of Christ, struggling with emotions God doesn’t want us to feel? If that’s the case, is it bad?

Are we hindering our relationships with God and others, or damaging our witness? Are we letting that unnecessary emotion keep us from doing what God has asked us to do on our writing journey? After all, if we’re guilty, who are we to write about life and faith? How can we inspire others when we’re caught in guilt ourselves? And if we’re doing all that, engaging in something we shouldn’t be, how do we stop? And if we are supposed to feel guilt, how could we ever consider it a gift?

All good questions, which we’ll tackle today. 

So let’s start by figuring out what the word guilt really means by going to our favorite resource for such things, Webster’sThe definitions are: 

: the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty  broadly: guilty conduct 

: the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously : culpability

: feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one’s behavior : self-accusation

: the state of being liable to penalty for offense against law—used in respect to persons and sometimes property that by reason of illegal usage has become liable to forfeiture or other burden

Okay, so now that we have the definitions, let’s consider the question of whether or not we believers should be feeling guilty. In 1 John 1:8, John delivers this bit of “encouragement” to Christ’s followers:

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”

Ouch. Okay, we still sin.

Then there’s Romans 8:23:

“And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

Groaning, longing for release from sin! So, if we still sin, then surely we have things to feel guilty about?

James certainly seemed to think so. Consider James 4:7-10:

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

Wow. We need to wash our hands, to purify our hearts, to not divide our loyalty. As for sorrow and deep grief…sadness and gloom…that all sounds like the consequences of guilt. 

Paul talks about his own struggle with his sinful self in Romans 7:14-15. How many of us can relate to this:

“…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

Then he writes this powerful truth in Romans 7:24-8:4 (ESV):

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 

These are just a few of the Scriptures that show that those of us who are restored to God our Father through Jesus’s death and resurrection are far from sinless. And if we sin, you know we’re gonna feel guilt. More important, be in a factual state of guilt. The truth is that guilt, or feeling guilt, doesn’t damage our witness or hinder our obedience in whatever tasks God gives us, including our writing. 

I can hear you now: How can we write for others, to inspire and uplift them, if we’re guilty? Well, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 5:31:

“It is not the well who need a physician, but the sick.”

Guilty or not, OF COURSE we can inspire others in our writing because we’re not writing from some “holy” point above what our readers struggle with. We’re right there with them, in the struggle. Those who haven’t faced what our readers have are the ones who have little to say. 

So yes, we do—and should—feel guilt. But why, exactly? What’s the purpose of guilt? Is it just emotions or is it something else entirely?

John I. Snyder wrote in his blog post, “A State of Being: Guilt and Shame”:

From the Bible’s point of view, guilt, real guilt, is first and foremost not a feeling. It’s a state of being. It’s the position of being out of line with our God by virtue of our sin. It can be fixed only by being placed into a right relationship with him, a solution that’s brought about only by God himself, not by us. It is his specialty to fix this problem. Resorting to our own measures only makes things worse…[When God fixes our guilt] nothing more can be—or needs to be—added to it. We can’t make it better or earn it.” 

So guilt, true guilt (yes, there’s false guilt out there, but we’ll talk about that another time), is a twofold proposition. It’s a state or condition. When we do what we know is wrong—or when we don’t do what we know to be right—basically, when we sin, we are guilty. Our emotions have little or nothing to do with our guilt. We are, factually, in a state of being guilty. 

Guilt is also the emotional response we feel when we’re in a state of guilt. Whether our wrongdoing is in violation of God’s laws, civil laws (that don’t break God’s laws), or our own personally held values, the result is the same. True guilt. We sin, and we feel guilt. 

I’m betting we all know that terrible feeling. The heaviness inside. The regret. The restlessness and even sadness or grief. The awareness that we’ve damaged something—whether that’s our integrity, our relationship with God or people, or our witness as believers—and the holy nagging to put things right. 

How does this affect writers? Writers seeking to honor Christ are constantly presented with opportunities to violate what we know to be right. Temptations for writers are out there. For example:

  • Publishers want to contract you if you’ll just take out the Jesus stuff. 
  • You include something in the book that’s “true to life,” but doesn’t honor God. 
  • You fudge the truth about your sales or career to make yourself look better. 
  • You make getting published your goal rather than obedience. 
  • You ignore agreed upon responsibilities to family and friends because you have to write.
  • You put off writing even though you know it will make you miss a contracted deadline. 

Those kinds of things, and so much more, leave us with uncomfortable, nagging, even devastating guilt. As they should, because we are guilty when we’ve sinned. 1 John 1:8-10 makes that pretty clear:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Now there’s some guilt I wouldn’t want. 

So yes, we’re created in God’s image, and we’re commanded to be holy as He is holy. We’re given clear guidelines in Scripture as to what’s right and what’s wrong. When we go against those truths, of course we’ll feel guilty. It’s only natural. And it’s natural that true guilt negatively affects everything—keeping us from moving forward in our relationships, career, and faith—until we make things right.

Let’s repeat that: true guilt affects everything…until we make things right. That, friends, is a vital aspect of true guilt. And that’s what makes true and healthy guilt a gift in our lives and writing. 

God never intended for believers to live wracked by guilt. To feel guilt every day, in every way, and never get away from it. Let me put in a side note here: For unbelievers, guilt is absolutely intended to be there, to draw people to Christ. But for believers, God never intended us to live incapacitated by guilt and overwhelmed by how terrible we are. 

Isn’t that where guilt hits writers the hardest? In that place where we look at the task in front of us, a task God has given us, and let guilt tell us we’re not worthy to do it? If we live with unresolved guilt, it festers and becomes a barrier to our belief that God can use us. 

Which is why it’s such good news that God doesn’t want us to live with guilt! 

Grant Agler, a pastor, wrote this in his article “Guilt – Is it from God?“:

“God is for you. Remember that, he is not against you, he is for you. He has gone to great length just to demonstrate how much he is for you.”

Agler then points us to Romans 8:31-33: 

“If God is for us, then who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

This amazing God who is for us, ALWAYS for us, knows what living in guilt would do to us. As Agler writes:

“[Our] loving father…would never heap guilt on you that has no clear resolution. God will give you something better than just guilt, he will give you a ‘path to repentance.'”

God wants to erase our guilt. To remove it so we no longer feel it. He uses true guilt, a good—although terrible—thing to move us to repentance and reconciliation. Again, that’s the purpose of true guilt: reconciliation, restoration, and freedom through forgiveness. That, without a doubt, is a gift. 

I (Karen) have never had a problem with confessing my sin to God, but oh, how I hated having to go through the humiliation of confessing my sin to those I’d wronged. But God, in His mercy, showed me the wonder of forgiveness and erased guilt when I was seventeen years old. I’d deliberately disobeyed my dad. He’d told me I could go out to dinner with my friends, but I was not to go cruising with my friends afterwards because it was dangerous. If they wanted to go cruising, he told me to ask to be brought home first.

As much as I adored my dad, well, I was seventeen! So when my friends decided to go cruising, I went along. When I came home, I was consumed with guilt. This was the first time I’d flat gone against my dad. I went up to my room and lay on my bed crying and suffering.

I pulled out my Bible and God led me to Psalm 32, which is a wonderful testimony of the effect of feeling guilt when we sin. In verses 3-4, it was clear David had an intimate knowledge of feeling guilt:

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” 

That, my friends, is a terrible place to be even temporarily. I can’t imagine living there. 

Which is why it’s so wonderful that we who believe in God never have to stay in a state of guilt. The very millisecond we surrender to the Spirit’s leading and confess our sins, God’s forgiveness washes us clean. When we follow the Spirit’s leading to make things right, freedom is restored. 

Best-selling author Tamera Alexandar shared with us in podcast episode #130 about a devastating time in her career when she sinned. If you haven’t listened to that podcast episode, do so. You’ll see how God wouldn’t let her live in that sin. How, as humiliating as it felt, she confessed to those she’d wronged. And how God not only set her free, but made her so much stronger in her faith and obedience. Her experience is the perfect example of the gift of true guilt. 

So that then, is the grand news for all of us. Yes, we sin. Yes, we put ourselves in a state of true guilt. And yes we feel the emotion of guilt. But it doesn’t end there! Thanks be to God, as Paul said, true guilt isn’t permanent! 

In fact, it serves God’s purposes for our life, faith, and writing. True guilt:

  • is natural and healthy in the life of a believer 
  • wrecks us when we sin and makes us admit our weakness and sinfulness
  • permeates our spirits until we go to God and repent
  • is TEMPORARY! 

Once we’ve taken our guilt to God, once we’ve done as He leads to make things right, it’s done. Gone. It evaporates in the warmth of holy restoration. We are free and able to rejoice in God’s and others’ forgiveness. 

Now, as much as true guilt is healthy for us, there is something else at work where guilt is concerned. Remember how we mentioned false guilt earlier? Well, sometimes we feel guilty but we’re not sure why. We can’t tell if what we’re feeling is true guilt, or false guilt. False guilt is devastating, and it’s an effective tool the enemy uses against believers. 

It’s especially effective against writers seeking to honor God because writers are already so vulnerable to something we’ve talked about before in episode 81: Imposter Syndrome. Which is why we’re devoting our entire next podcast to understanding, exploring, and erasing false guilt. 

Until then, here’s a handy list from the article “How to Tell the Difference Between True and False Guilt” on Lifecoachingonthego.com to help you determine if what you’re feeling is true guilt. Well…their list with a few tweaks from us. 

When you feel true guilt:

  • You know exactly why you feel this way. 
  • It’s clear you did something wrong and are responsible.
  • You can’t ignore it and it doesn’t just go away over time.
  • It leads to learning, forgiveness from God and others and yourself.
  • It’s resolved by:
    1. facing and stopping the sin 
    2. confessing the wrongdoing to God and those you’ve wronged
    3. taking steps according to God’s word and wisdom to make it right.
  • It ends.

If those things resonate, then yes, what you’re feeling is true and healthy guilt. And yes, it’s a gift. We’re not saying it’s easy. Or fun. It’s going to take courage to deal with. And humility. But remember, God already knows your sin. Nothing you can do will surprise him or make him take his love from you, because God IS love. It’s his nature, and it doesn’t depend on you. Thank God, right?

When God has used good guilt to work His purpose in your life, you will be able to walk and write in the freedom of forgiveness. And your stories, be they fiction or nonfiction, will resonate with the authenticity of one who is forgiven and restored. 

Then you’ll be able to sing with David the rest of Psalm 32. You didn’t think we’d forget to share that, did you? Well buckle up, friends, because the following verses are why this Psalm was so powerful to my (Karen’s) seventeen-year-old sinner’s self, and why I wept when I read it. I’d just confessed my wrong to my dad, and his forgiveness was swift and complete, and ended with the assurance, “Karen, you could never do anything that would make me not love you.” 

Trust me, those are the same words you’ll hear from God when your guilt is forgiven. So, here are the words God gave me that night so long ago: 

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!… Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:1-2; 5

Amen!

Do you feel guilty? Find out when it’s a gift...and when it’s not! #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Share on X
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How has God used guilt in your life?

THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST

For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com.

Today we’re covering commandment number 7: Thou shalt weigh thine options before investing in marketing.

Investing in marketing is a given. Every successful author does so. But how much of which resources do you invest? For example, one resource is time, and another is money. They’re both valuable. But how much do you have of each? And how do you allocate them?

You can’t spend the same marketing dollar on two different things. You’ve got to choose. Nor can you spend the same hour of time on two different things. There is always going to be a cost, a thing you chose and a thing you didn’t choose. The best thing you can do for yourself is understand and weigh your options so you can make the best decisions you can. 

You also need to be asking the right question when it comes to marketing. Don’t ask: will this tactic or thing I want to try help me sell more books? Lots of things can help you sell more books. Ask instead: Will this help me sell more books than the next best alternative?

For that, again, you need to know what those alternatives are. Listening to the Novel Marketing Podcast is a great way to be informed about those options, which is why we recommend that show. You can find more book promotion and platform help by listening to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out. K.D. Aster, thanks, and keep writing!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!

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