Understanding Guilt pt. 1

Guilt can be an emotionally painful experience, and it comes up repeatedly in counseling. People who are depressed, lonely, grieving, members of violent families, sexual immoral or abused person, alcoholic, terminally ill, or facing almost any problems often are plagued with guilt. Guilt has been described as the intersection of religion and psychology.



Objective guilt occurs when a law has been broken and the lawbreaker is guilty even though he/she may not feel guilty.


Subjective guilt refers to inner feelings of remorse and self-condemnation that comes because of our actions


This can be divided into

Social guilt
LEGAL GUILT: This is the violation of society’s laws. For example, a person who steals from a store is legally guilty of theft, even if he or she is never caught and regardless of whether or not the person feels any remorse.

THEOLOGICAL GUILT: This involves a failure to obey the laws of God. The Bible describes divine standards for human behaviors. Often times we violate this standards.

Many psychiatrists and psychologists do not admit the existence of theological guilt. To do so would be to admit that there are absolute moral standards. If absolute standards exist, there must be a standard-setter, and that is God. For many, it is easier to believe that right and wrong are relative-dependent on one’s own experiences, training, and subjective values. This has great practical implication in counseling.

PERSONAL GUILT: Here the individual violates his or her own personal standards or resists the urgings of conscience. No laws have been broken, and neither has the guilty person disobeyed God. This is not illegal, immoral, or unbiblical but the person feels guilty nevertheless.

SOCIAL GUILT: This comes when we break an unwritten but socially accepted rule. If a person is rude, talk loudly in a quiet library, pushes into the front of the queue, no law has been broken and the offender may or may not feel guilty, nevertheless the person is guilty of violating social expectations of other people.

Written by Dr. Godwin Ude

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