Guilt is an emotional response to wrongdoing. We should feel the Lord’s conviction when we disobey His commandments, or even when we break civil laws that do not contradict God’s laws. But there’s another kind of guilt that is not from the Lord but from man. Called “false guilt,” it has different forms.
Legalism is a form of religion that holds firmly to man-made rules rather than to Christ (Col. 2:16-23). It has no power for salvation or transformation but instead enslaves people to false guilt when they fail to keep the rules.
Perfectionism is a burden we place upon ourselves. If we don’t perform to our self-made standards, we feel like failures and can’t forgive ourselves. However, Christians are commanded to live for Christ, not for themselves and their own expectations.
Trying to please people is another source of false guilt. This could develop in the home, workplace, school, church, or anywhere that others place demands on us.
Of course, the ideal is always to treat others with love and kindness. But with false guilt, the solution is to please God, not people. When guilt comes, evaluate its source. Is it from God or man?