Guilt, Shame, and Conviction.

Posted on: March 31, 2014, by :

What’s the difference between guilt, shame, and conviction?

I was asked this question today.  One of the young men in my church said that after the lesson yesterday, he felt so bad about how much time he was spending at work, rather than going to church.  He kept saying, “I love our church, and I love being there.  I just can’t make it sometimes.”  We spoke for several minutes about how much he loved the men in our church and how much they have taught him to be a better father, and husband.  Eventually, he stopped me mid sentence and said, “You know, I think I feel so bad about this because I don’t have to work on Sunday, I choose to work on Sunday.” 

Now that’s a different story. 

I wrote in my book, Checklist Jesus, that there is nothing that signifies that Sunday is in some way more special than the rest of the days, the commandment to observe the Sabbath is about obedience and rest to refocus our lives on the Lord Jesus.  I, for one, cannot take Sunday as a Sabbath due to the work that I do for my church.  However, it is vital for my life to observe the Sabbath. 

My friend and I began to discuss the idea of conviction from the Holy Spirit and how sweet it is to know that God is interested in us to the point that we are called to new action, rather than being disregarded due to our sinful nature. 

He asked a great question as we finished our conversation.  He asked, “How do I know if I’m feeling guilty for the sins I’ve already confessed, or when I need to do something else about it?”


I gave this explanation as a way to help him decide.

Guilt – It’s a fact. I’m guilty of all the things I’ve ever done.  Good and bad, I am guilty of all of them.  Feeling guilty should be sobering, not sad.  Knowing that there is a truth about your action also helps us to understand the value of God’s justice and mercy. 

Shame – This is a lie.  Shame is the idea that Satan plants into your mind that inspires you to assume that your sins are too big for Jesus’ blood to cover them.  If Romans 8 is true, then shame has no place among the people of God. 

Conviction – This is the spiritual urging that entreats us to leave the bondage of sin, and return to the freedom of serving the Lord.  The Holy Spirit Convicts in order that we will alter our behavior.  This is not done to make us righteous, Jesus already did that through the cross, the behavior modification is to return us to freedom in Jesus and service to His kingdom. 


What do you think?