Guilt? Shame?

The devil has a way of making a sin look like no big deal when you are thinking of committing it, but too big of a deal for God to forgive you after you’ve done it. We’ve all experienced the endless voices of harsh thoughts after we’ve made mistakes. So, how do we know which voices are from God?

If you have fallen in your pursuit of purity, it’s important to know the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation is the voice of guilt that makes us feel damaged, worthless and shameful. This was the reaction of Adam and Eve when they hid from God in the garden. Their feelings of condemnation resulted in their failure to run to His mercy— and this was what hurt Him most of all! Conviction, on the other hand, allows us to see how we have failed and therefore calls us to change. This is why St Thérèse could say that her weakness and wretchedness were like an elevator that kept her close to God. Conviction motivates us to hold fast to mercy.

How about you? Have you made mistakes? Have you fallen in your path to purity? Have you made choices you aren’t proud of? Do you feel the weight on your conscience? Do you hate your sin? Welcome to the club! We’ve all heard people talk about “Catholic Guilt.” The misconception is that Catholics are shamed into good behaviour because of inner condemnations. On the contrary, when we make a mistake, our conscience knows we were created for more. The healthy version of “Catholic Guilt” gives us the drive to find out what that “more” is all about.

Chances are you’ve heard some follow-up chatter in your mind and felt it in your heart as you’ve wallowed in guilt. So, how do you know if these thoughts and voices come from God? Here are some ways to discern God’s voice from all the others: God speaks with conviction, not condemnation. His voice never encourages shame, only an invitation to conversion. It’s God’s kindness that pursues our brokenness. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long”(Psalm 23:6).

The voice of God doesn’t make us feel hopeless, but always provides a way out. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God’s voice is usually gentle, not harsh or obtrusive. The devil will make you feel like there are these daunting labels put upon you that are too overwhelming to overcome like – you’re selfish, worthless, impure. God will call you to precise, specific ways to turn from sin and encounter Him. “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). God’s voice makes us feel like everything is under control. “ In your hand are power and might, so that no one is able to withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6).

The God whose words created the universe wants to speak peace into your life. The devil wants to speak discord and indignity. “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account” (Philippians 4:17). God came not to ruin our joy but to fulfill it. When you encounter a voice ask, “Does this voice bring me abundant life or shrink my heart?” “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). God’s word strikes us in a place that no one else can access. His word penetrates us in a way nothing else can. “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

To hear the Lord, we must give Him a chance to speak. Our lives are so full of distractions and in every moment the world is vying for our attention! God wants to speak His love into our shame. It’s in this relationship with Jesus that we can discover that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. His mercy wants to recreate us in His love! Jesus doesn’t come to us in anger but rather with a desire to reconcile so that we can be together with Him forever. Let His voice calm the storm in your heart and heal you in the way only He can!

This article originally appeared on

– by Katie Hartfiel, USA

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