Protestant Guilt

Remember the story in the Imitation, how the Christ on the crucifix suddenly spoke to the monk who was so anxious about his salvation and said “If you knew that all was well, what would you, today, do, or stop doing?”

When you have found the answer, do it or stop doing it. You see, one must always get back to the practical and definite. What the devil loves is that vague cloud of unspecified guilt feeling or unspecified virtue by which he lures us into despair or presumption. “Details, please?” is the answer.Β  ~ C.S. Lewis

I’ve read many thoughtful blogs tonight. It’s been interesting to find the topic of guilt frequently referenced on both what could be considered secular blogs (in the sense that they aren’t specifically ‘religious’ by intent) and Christian blogs (in that some aspect of Christianity is the primary theme).

There’s secular guilt over everything from diets and gas mileage to world hunger and damage to the ozone layer. There’s abundant religious guilt. The Jewish celebration of Yom Kippur, the β€˜day of atonement’, is possibly the most angst-ridden holiday on the Jewish calendar. Atonement is the main theme in the month-long Islamic celebration Ramadan. Hindus and Buddhists worry about their negative karma.

The really famous guilt, of course, is Catholic guilt. I’m not Catholic, so I can only speak to Protestant guilt. If it’s any consolation to my dear Catholic friends, I’ve yet to meet a Catholic who can out-guilt an evangelical or a fundamentalist.

I’m baffled as to why you rarely hear about Protestant guilt, unless it’s because we believe it’s a good and necessary thing? I was a professional guilt-gatherer most of my life. I know the damage such a collection can cause.

Legalism leads to guilt. Grace leads to gratitude. I no longer believe that there’s a place for guilt in the life of a follower of Jesus. I believe in conviction and repentance and remorse, but not guilt.

Do it or stop doing it. Repent, make amends and move on. Only the enemy holds up the rear-view mirror to keep us focused on past mistakes and sins. I’m confident there’s nothing he likes better than to make lame with guilt the leg that grace has already healed.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

23 thoughts on “Protestant Guilt”

    1. judi – So true! It IS finished! Makes me think of an old Gaither song: “It is finished, the battle is over. It is finished, there’ll be no more war”
      Yet we keep fighting a battle that’s already won…
      ~ Debbie

  1. AMEN!! As an old Newsboys song once said, “I catch you digging in my trash, for stuff I’ve long thrown away, you bring it back on a tray.” The more I learn, the more I believe right along with you. Guilt is the tool of the devil. Guilt is obliterated at the cross. When I confess, there is no more guilt.

  2. Yes. protestant guilt. We negate what Christ has already done when we continually ‘question by carrying guilt’ he already forgave.
    I have a Guilt (Do You Carry it Around in Your Wheelbarrow) chapter in my book, Bloom Girl Bloom (Real Women with Real Answers). It was fascinating to here women talk about guilt or no guilt and why.

    Thanks for another great blog thought. Have a beautiful day!

    1. Jan – If I ever have an address for more than 3 weeks, I’ll have to send for your book! You are SO right! When we insist on guilt, we are negating the completed work of Christ on our behalf.
      Thank you and keep blooming! (I don’t think you’ll ever stop!)
      ~ Debbie

    1. cuz – I love you but sometimes you are simply too deep for me. I do know (from a gazillion hours of lectures from you) that you aren’t a big guilt fan so I’ll take it as a ‘good word’. πŸ˜‰
      ~ Debbie

    1. Hello Debbie – You are so amazingly kind and encouraging. A couple of folks dropped the blog today – I’m guessing over this post. But I don’t feel guilty. πŸ˜‰
      It could just be because it got rather boring!
      Guilt has done a serious number on my gut over the years, but I’m getting there (graceland).
      ~ Debbie

  3. Gosh Debbie, so very well said.

    You know when you look in the rearview mirror too much you end up running into or over someone or something = damage to all.

    Remember my rearview mirror story? Ugh.

    1. LOL! I forgot all about your rear-view mirror story! You should write about it! πŸ˜€
      You make a wonderful point – I may steal it tonight. You really can’t look backwards and forward at the same time!
      ~ Debbie

  4. Yes, we were raised on the same pew πŸ˜‰ And it is the enemy holding that rear view mirror. It can be so hard to not look into it. But moving ahead is the only way to live a life of peace. Thanks, Debbie.

    1. Hey lew – thanks for the encouragement! I had 2 people unsubscribe today. It’s the first time I’ve had people drop the blog and 2 in 1 day seems like more than a coincidence. I didn’t even think I was sticking my toe in controversy with this one?
      Thanks for sticking with me. ;D
      ~ Debbie

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