Guilt vs Conviction
Guilt and conviction may not be two words you have ever thought about together before, but earlier this week I was struck by the way they relate to each other and how important it could be to distinguish between the two. Watch the video or read on to find out why…
Last week we had a full day out. It was getting late, and with school next day we were in a rush to get home. To save some time, we decided to get fish and chips for dinner. It turned out to be not quite as quick an option as I’d hoped; we had to wait for a while in the shop and in reality, it would have been as quick to whip something up at home!
But ‘hey!’ we had made our decision, and it was the first time I’d had fish and chips for quite some time. In the main I enjoyed them as I was eating, but afterwards I started to feel a bit ‘bleugh’. I didn’t feel quite right: a little greasy and a bit bloated, and I realised I that I hadn’t really enjoyed them much at all. In that moment I had the conviction that chip shop fish and chips didn’t really suit my body that well and I think I would rather have had our own version at home.
Eating something less healthy is of course fine if it’s something that you don’t do very often; the occasional portion of fish and chips is not going to have any real impact on your health at all! And it could have been the case that I’d eaten my fish and chips, enjoyed them, and thought no more of it. But having eaten the meal and not enjoyed it, I had the conviction that I’d actually rather spend the money on other things and have healthier, fresher things to eat.
But perhaps more importantly, what I didn’t feel having eaten those fish and chips, was guilt. So, what is the difference between guilt and conviction?
The definition of ‘guilt’ is ‘the fact of having committed a specific crime or offence’. Think about the last time you felt guilty. If it’s got anything to do with eating something or not eating something, or perhaps not exercising, then you can see from this definition that your feeling of guilt has no grounds. You haven’t committed a crime or offence against anyone, so where does that guilt come from? Not from God, for sure!
Perhaps it comes from your past, if people in the past have told you that you should or shouldn’t do something? Or perhaps it comes from some ‘ridiculous rules’ you may have around dieting or the way you’ve treated food in the past?
I believe conviction is God’s way of encouraging us to step away from things that aren’t great for us. It’s very different to guilt. Guilt brings us down makes us feel really rubbish; it doesn’t put it in a positive place. Whereas conviction brings us up again.
You’ll probably notice that guilt is quite an instant feeling and it can be quite short term, directly linked to the moment you are doing something. Conviction might come a bit later and it might have some logical grounds. So, in the case of the fish and chips, there was some logical ground for my conviction. Having eaten them I felt a bit bloated and lethargic, which led to an awareness that it wasn’t the best choice, and finally to a gentle conviction of that.
So, how do you stop feeling guilty? How can you turn those feelings around to something more positive? Well, you need to find the root of your feeling of guilt, to work out where it’s coming from. It could be that you have developed a dieting mentality. It could be because something’s been ‘out of bounds’ for you in the past, so that now you feel that you can’t have it or you shouldn’t have it. And you’ve somehow convinced yourself that you are committing an offence which, when you think about it, is obviously quite ridiculous!
Ask yourself whether you have got some ridiculous rules around what you’re doing. You may need to recognise those and ridicule them, and then replace them with something else that’s more positive and encouraging. Or is it because the thing that you’re feeling guilty about is happening quite a lot and you’re actually quite bound by it, and therefore, maybe conviction is creeping in.
So, can you use that conviction for something more positive? Conviction can really push us towards God and towards making changes that are better for us. Can you switch it around, use a growth mindset, and think about what you can learn and what you can change?
And if what you are feeling is just guilt and has no grounds? Then you need to just bat it away and replace it with some more positive thinking.
Try and distinguish whether what you feel is guilt that has no grounds or justification or conviction grounded in logic and reality, that could be God leading you towards a healthier kind of lifestyle.
Guilt and conviction are things we cover as part of Healthy Whole and Free. The next course starts on Wednesday 5th of May and I’d love for you to join us if you’d like to learn more about this area and break free from some of the dieting mindsets that you’ve had before.
And next week, starting 26th of April, I’m running 3 webinars about stopping dieting and letting God be in more control of food and the way that you’re eating, so that you can find freedom and fun and flexibility again in that area. You can register here