The Danger of Me-Focused Guilt

Satan’s strategy is to attack our egos, taunting us for not sufficiently employing our own wisdom and strength.

Here lies the danger of me-focused guilt. The danger is not just that it’s wrong or dishonoring to God or unbiblical—although those are true. The danger is how it leads us to find the solution to our problem in ourselves, to trust in ourselves, to find hope in what we can do better next time—and not in our all-sufficient God. (Which will lead to more dishonoring of God’s goodness and grace in the future.)

 

Often our feelings of “guilt” are driven more by pride than genuine repentance.

We all know the feeling. We’ve thought, said, or done something wrong. And we feel remorse about it. But if we’re honest we don’t feel remorse about the sin itself or about disobeying God. Rather, we feel remorse because we failed. We didn’t do so well. Or others saw us fail. Or if others didn’t see us, we feel guilt because if someone did happen to find out about it we’d be embarrassed.

In these instances our “guilt” is less about the sin or the God we’ve dishonored; it’s more about us. We failed. We’re frustrated, embarrassed. We think we should do better.

Satan’s Strategy to Attack Our Egos

This happens personally to me all the time. I’m starting to watch out for it and call it “me-focused guilt.” Recently while reading Daniel Fuller’s The Unity of the Bible he poignantly explained this idea, telling not only that it happens but why it happens. Fuller writes,

“Satan indeed generally has grounds for his accusations, since all sins have have elements of foolishness, ignobility, shame, and weakness. Far from showing their root to be a failure to believe God, however, Satan’s strategy is to attack our egos, taunting us for not sufficiently employing our own wisdom and strength in coping with some situation. Since his one objective is to destroy our faith, his accusations always carry with them an implicit demand to trust in ourselves rather than in God (cf. 2 Cor. 1:9).” (Daniel Fuller, The Unity of the Bible , 282).

Why Attack the Ego?

This is Satan’s strategy: not to merely make us feel guilty, but “to attack our egos.” But why does Satan use this method of attack? Why does Satan assault our egos, leading to me-focused guilt?

Because if our guilt is me-focused, then we’re prone to think the solution will also be me-focused. As Fuller writes, “Satan’s strategy is to attack our egos, taunting us for not sufficiently employing our own wisdom and strength…his accusations always carry with them an implicit demand to trust in ourselves rather than in God” (emphasis added).

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