I Have Sinned–Or Have I?

adult art conceptual dark

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.       -Martin Luther

A person’s conscience ain’t got no sense.       -Huckleberry Finn

When we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV), we tend to assume the prophet was speaking of those who justify their sin because “something that feels so good can’t be bad.” But heart and conscience can deceive in the other direction as well, convincing us God will be angry if we can’t keep every “bird” of impure thought from “flying” over the “head” of our consciousness (and occasionally dropping something less firmly constructed than a nest but still pretty messy).

Those of us with sensitive scruples run up against false guilt regularly:

  • “What’s wrong with me that I let myself think about things like that?”
  • “I haven’t had a drink in months. Why can’t I stop feeling the urge every time I pass a beer ad?”
  • “I’m supposed to love everybody. I must be a terrible person to be annoyed that my boss keeps nagging me to work Sundays.”

And, sadly, there are thoughtless and selfish people (not to mention that master of discouragement we call the devil) who are always ready to take advantage of false guilt with such comments as, “I thought you cared,” “But we were counting on you,” or even, “I thought you Christians were supposed to be so generous/understanding/pure.” Even well-meaning friends can unwittingly lay false guilt on us when their priorities don’t coincide with ours–and perhaps not with God’s will for our lives.

It’s not a minor concern. The quicker we are to blame ourselves for what goes wrong, the more likely we are to avoid seeking God because we fear He’s disgusted with us anyway.

Of course, it’s vital to pray continually whether we’ve done anything wrong or not. (Please, don’t read that and scold yourself for every time you let your consciousness turn from God in the past week.) But instead of immediately crying, “God, forgive me!” at every fleeting temptation, we’d do well to evaluate the situations that trigger our feelings of guilt. Then, we can decide whether we truly need to confess a sin, or whether what we really need to ask God for is discernment, confidence, or comfort.

Try evaluating guilty impulses by these criteria:

  • Did I actively seek this out, and willfully continue in it? If you feel an impulse of self-pity on not getting your own way, that’s not sin in itself. But if you spend the next hour mentally rehearsing how badly life and God always treat you, you’re turning temptation into willful rebellion.
  • Am I expecting myself to be perfect? Being human means you will always do careless things in this life. Mistakes, even thoughtless ones, aren’t necessarily sin, and God is ready to treat our slip-ups with tender understanding:  “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

And remember that much sin comes down to our heart attitudes. The person who says, “God will forgive; that’s His job,” is already in trouble–and so is the person who takes personal credit for every temptation avoided. But those who trust God to keep them humble are justified in His sight. And regularly asking God for His strength and wisdom is the best way to escape false guilt.

COMING SOON! My new e-book, 100 Ways to Live as an Optimist in a Pessimistic World, will be available this spring. Join the 100 Ways email list for up-to-date news, special offers, and teaser optimism tips!

Leave a comment


  1. Jo Swank

     /  January 26, 2019

    Excellent guidance as always!

  1. The Slippery Slope of Temptation | Strength for the Weary
  2. Recognizing Your Personal Weaknesses | Strength for the Weary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

  • Social

  • About Me

    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 8,891 hits
  • Find Posts by Date

    January 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec   Feb »
  • Copyright

    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
  • Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: