Not Feeling Guilty When We Should: Guilt Part III
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."1
In a California murder case some time back, a case that dragged out for months, the man being prosecuted appeared to have a seared or dead conscience. The way he lived and used other people for his own ends, and showed no sorrow regarding this, nor any visible emotion when he was handed a death sentence seemed to indicate this.
This brings us to another aspect concerning guilt we need to understand. True, it's important to resolve false guilt and shame so we don't feel guilty or shameful when we shouldn't. On the other hand there are some people who don't feel guilty when they should—when they have done wrong.
Some, who are too prideful to admit when they have done wrong and refuse to say, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me," often play the blame-game and project the blame onto somebody else. These people have a very poor self-image and need to resolve that. (Actually one of our greatest strengths is to admit our weaknesses and mistakes. Only then can we ever overcome them. Denial traps us in the web of our own insecurities.)
Then there are those who have what the Bible describes as a seared conscience. What they and we all need to realize is that guilt in the Bible is a legal term. That is, if we have done wrong and sinned, we are guilty whether we feel guilty or not. The same is true with the law of the land. The court is not going to make a judgment on the basis of whether we feel guilty or not. If we broke the law, we will be judged on the basis of what we did—not on the basis of our feelings or whether we had a dead conscience.
The word "conscience" itself literally means "with knowledge" ("con" meaning "with" and "science" meaning "knowledge"). The emotional term in the Bible associated with guilt is Godly sorrow.2 In other words, when we have sinned, the mature and healthy response is to admit it, feel sorrowful for it, confess it, and repent of (turn away from) it, and be forgiven.
Denying our actions when we have done wrong and willfully continuing with these wrong or sinful actions can readily lead to a seared conscience. This is a very dangerous path to pursue.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the courage to admit when I have done wrong and deliver me from the sin of denial so that I will never end up with a dead or seared conscience. And thank you that when I confess my wrongs and sins, you freely forgive me. And then please help me to forgive myself. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV).
2. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret" (2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)).