The Useless Emotion

Based on the response yesterday, we all love to hate the Proverbs 31 woman.

But why?

One person on Twitter said, “How many of us like to be compared to an ideal,” which is so true. No one likes to come up short. Comparison isn’t so bad when we know we’re doing well. However, when we feel like the loser in the race, we don’t want it highlighted for all.

Is this just a case of the Proverbs 31 woman being the popular girl that we all want to emulate, but hate because she seems perfect? Are those feelings of guilt, failure and shame what God intended for us in including chapters like this in Scripture? That is what I want to explore today.

Let’s take a look at guilt…

Picture a lush tropical paradise. Birds flit overhead, a warm breeze whips the hair around your face, and sweet smells of pineapples and mangos waft through the air. A newlywed couple walk arm in arm under palm spread archways — you know where I’m going with this.

Just one choice, one poor decision, and it all changes. The peace, the unity, the relationship is gone. In its place there is shame, avoidance, blame, and division.

Guilt accompanies sin.

The God of grace, love, unity and compassion is now separated from His creation. Yet still, He seeks out those who are lost to Him. He rejoices over the prodigal. He removes our sins from us and frees us from our chains of bondage. He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our guilt, setting us free to spend eternity with Him.

God is not the source of guilt, He is not the cause of guilt. Guilt is a consequence of the Fall.

I loved the comments that were written in response to yesterday’s post! It was so good to hear your thoughts on this topic, and many of them ministered to me. I wanted to highlight them again here, so they could minister to you as well.

Guilt is a useless emotion. It is a form of self deception that makes me look at myself and not at what God is saying to me or what people around me are going through. When I become so focused on myself and how I think I am doing, I loose sight of things that really matter…. I do things for the wrong reasons. – Jess

We are much harder on ourselves than our children, husbands, and friends ever are.Gretchen

In talking specifically about the Proverbs 31 passage, Haley said that she realized in studying it that she “did need to improve, but I didn’t need to feel the guilt.”

Brittany added that, “We have to make the choice to use it (Proverbs 31) as encouragement and not a guilt provoker.”

And Jason provided a manly perspective by sharing that, “any scripture has the ability to make us feel guilty if we aren’t relying on grace.”

Paul says the purpose of the Law (Scripture) is to alert us to the presence of sin:

I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. Romans 7:7

The sin that we inherited through the actions of the first man and woman turned the holy commandments of God from producers of life to producers of death.

The words of King Lemuel highlight the good works and kind deeds of a virtuous woman. We see condemnation and judgment because we do not feel we measure up. Paul instructs Timothy on the life that an elder or deacon should aspire to. Those same words are tools in the hand of the enemy to tear down a present day ministry leader.

Guilt causes us to avoid scriptures, people, and situations God intended for life in us. The thing we’re avoiding isn’t what’s condemning us, it’s our own sin rising up against the truth of God.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2

Therefore there is now no condemnation.

Is there an area of your life where God has spoken life, and yet you still feel death?

Join me tomorrow as I look at how we can shake off those feelings of guilt.

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20 Comments

  1. leeleegirl4 says:

    Thank you for such a timely reminder that feeling guilty about our imperfections is useless.

    1. Melissa says:

      That idea came from a comment yesterday by my friend Jess. It’s so true that guilt is a waste of our time…and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot to spare. :)

  2. lynnette says:

    I was talking to my husband about this last night and about just not feeling like I am measuring up to where I should be.
    He reminded me that I need to make sure that what I am comparing and measuring myself against is not the ideal that the world projects. I need to be healthy spiritually and mentally. Not to feel guilty my house is messy or my kids seem out of control at the store one day. to remember that raising kids is not easy, that a house is a house and nothing more and to just take a breathe and learn to truly relax and be content.
    easy to hear, really hard to put into action.

    1. Melissa says:

      Good words, Lynnette! Words I’m sure you needed to hear, and one’s we would all do well to pay attention to. :) Thank you for sharing that!

  3. Eyvonne says:

    One distinction I like to make is the difference between guilt and conviction.

    I think guilt is a self-loathing, unproductive emotion.

    However, conviction is from God. Conviction brings us to repentance. Conviction warns us that we’re going the wrong way and need to make a change.

    When we respond appropriately to conviction, we’re brought back into a full and right relationship with God.

    Conviction is looking out for our good. Guilt wants to keep us in the pit and do us harm.

    1. Melissa says:

      I’m so glad you pointed that out, Eyvonne! I talk about this distinction in tomorrow’s post. What you said is so true! Thank you.

  4. Haley says:

    Hy husband similarly encouraged me recently in a conversation about housework. When we got married, he had been living on his own for 6 years. I, on the other hand, had never lived on my own (I don’t count 2 quarters in a dorm). He was VERY used to doing all his own housework…I was VERY used to doing a few “chores” that were “mine.” We worked out a system where we work together to keep the house clean. I have often felt guilt about the fact that he does way more around the house than most husbands we know (well, the guilt is for the fact that I do LESS than most of the wives I know). I was talking to Luke about this the other day and he reminded me–yet again–that every marriage is different. Example: He has no problem at all doing dishes. He likes it. I HATE doing dishes. Especially other people’s dishes…Luke also does most of the cooking. We figured out that we are both happiest if the kitchen is his domain. The flip-side of this is that Luke HATES any sort of logistical business involving paperwork, our house, or our cars. That’s where I come in. I do all the finances, bills, house research/upkeep, car repairs…Those things are not stressful to me.

    It is hard, though, when a friend tells me how guilty she feels for letting the dishes pile up. I often feel similarly, but Luke has been so great about releasing me from that guilt. He is thankful for the wife that I am, not the wife that I “could” be if I were another person…Or even an improved (in my eyes) version of myself. I love the comment from yesterday “We are much harder on ourselves than our children, husbands, and friends ever are” (Gretchen). It is so true. Luke is thankful for me and the role I play as his wife. He’ll often say, “yeah, but I’d trade dishes for diapers any day!” Haha!

    1. Melissa says:

      It sounds like you and Luke have figured out your strengths and weaknesses and have come together to figure out what works for you. Marriages seem to find their natural balance. For instance, now that we have Silas, Josh has pretty much taken over the bedtime responsibilities for the older three because I’m usually nursing the baby right then. At first I felt guilty about this, because after a hard day at work he was brushing teeth, changing diapers, and corralling kids into bed. The thing is, this is also a time when Josh gets to interact the most with the kids. He talks with them, prays with them, reads them stories or sings songs. They don’t get to see him much during the day, so this has become a special time for them.

      Like you, we have figured out what works. And we try to keep in mind that we’re both doing the best that we can.

  5. Melissa says:

    guilt and control also go hand in hand. guilt tells us we have control over situations, and while self control is a fruit of the spirit, Sovereign GOD is the one in full control. He is the one who cultivates, plants and grows the fruit in us. We need to do the opposite of control, we need to relinquish that control to Him.

    Yesterday, when I was of course, “BUSY!” ;) I walked into my daughters room to put away some clothes. On the bottom rack I saw about 30 empty hangers, all neatly in order just like I ask of her when she gets her clothes in the morning. Seeing those hangers, I cried. I cried because it has been SO long since I went in her room, to put away clean clothes and yet here she is doing exactly as I have asked her to do. Put her hangers away. I cried because God revealed to me how neglectful I have been with my girls and how I put myself first for EIGHT YEARS. I was convicted to the core, but that conviction lit a fire within me and it was out of worship, not ability, that I felt compelled to do more. Not guilt.

    This is the distinction. It came from just God meeting me right there in my daughter’s closet, not looking at how perfect my friend’s daughters closet is.

    I still have a long way to go…But GOD!

    I don’t know if any of that made sense…but um, yeah. :)

    1. Melissa says:

      Good, good, good thoughts! Yes, control is a huge part of it. Someone else brought up the idea of the conviction of God, as opposed to the condemnation of God. I am talking about this tomorrow, but I loved your illustration. God didn’t show you what He did to make you feel awful and curl up in a ball. Like you said, it “lit a fire within.” Aren’t you thankful that there’s always “…But God!” I know I am. :)

  6. Ed Cyzewski says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this post all day. I’m really intrigued by it. I think the Proverbs 31 woman thing does kind of get heralded to the point that we read it as a blueprint rather than a portrait of a what a godly woman could look like. In other words, it creates possibilities of what God could create in someone, rather than necessarily giving us the mandatory list of what a woman must be like. The difference is subtle, but it’s important.

    I also agree with the comment about the importance of reading the Bible with grace.

    1. Melissa says:

      Don’t you find that the entire Bible has been turned into a mandatory list, in much the same way? People want to break it down, figure out what the boundaries are, the requirements for salvation, and the black and white rules. The problem is that the relationship that God wants to cultivate with us, the whole reason for our existence, is then taken out of the equation. There are so many Christians out there who are afraid to approach God, because they’re worried that He will be exasperated with them, like an impatient parent, instead of receive them in with grace and love. The difference is very important!

      1. ed cyzewski says:

        It’s hard to say exactly what we do. I think I’ve seen the same trend you mention, though I’ve described it as turning God’s supernatural work into something we have to do. For example, a sermon that ends with “Let’s have faith like Isaiah,” turns scripture into a list of things to do rather than pointing us to the work that God wants to accomplish in us. Does that make sense?

        1. Melissa says:

          Totally! God works in us and through us. If we view scripture as a list of to-dos then we feel that we can take the credit (glory) for the changes in our life.

  7. Tricia says:

    I’ve been having such an issue with guilt lately, so this post was timely for me, and it’s definitely ministering to me. My heavy heart is burdened twofold: with guilt AND feeling grace-LESS. I’m trying to give it all to Him, to live in His Word, to pray in His light and Holy Spirit. Grace is for every person that accepts Him as Savior, so why don’t I feel like He wants it for me? All these things I have to work through. So thank you so much for this. It’s helping me get through this difficult time.

    1. Melissa says:

      Tricia – I’m praying for you in this time of heavy heartedness. I am so familiar with that sensation, and the disbelief that God could have grace for me. Stand firm in the promise that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God loves you, in that while you were still a sinner He sent Jesus to die for you. Before you ever thought of Him, He thought of you. I don’t say this flippantly, throwing it out in a cliche manner. This is truth, this is God’s heart for you. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are accepted. Stand strong in that and don’t allow the enemy to steal it. Thank you for your honesty here, and I will continue to pray for you that you would be able to sense and accept the grace of God in your life.

  8. Guilt is like pain. It tells you that something – relationship with someone or relationship with God – needs attention. And it leads to healing when the relationship is restored. (I am here not talking about ‘wallowing in self pity’ because we are not able to be someone we would love to be. We certainly need to realize that everyone is uniquely gifted and unique in God’s eyes.)

    In essence, the feeling of guilt is important to restoration and is a necessary thing. Absence of any Guilt would be tantamount to trivializing any wrong-doing towards others or towards God. But how we respond to it can mean the difference between happiness and despair. To respond in a way that will take us to happiness, we need to count on HIS GRACE that you have so loudly and beautifully articulated.

    1. Melissa says:

      Maybe I’m being nit-picky, but I believe what you’re describing is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I see guilt as a negative, because guilt is self-condemnation and only leads to shame and avoidance. However, when the Holy Spirit convicts us it is done in a way that brings life and glory to God when that thing is changed in us. Guilt causes us to focus inward on our deficiencies and failures, while conviction shows us the areas of growth and change that the Holy Spirit is working on in us. I am spurred on to action with conviction, guilt leaves me paralyzed.

      From your description, I feel like we’ve got the same idea, but we’re just using different words for it. I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that “we need to count on HIS GRACE” in all areas.

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