“Somebody ate my pumpkin pie!” Conversation stopped and heads turned. Our Egyptian friend Hassan pointed to the end of the dining room table. “It was right there, and now it’s gone!”
Relatives, neighbors and international students filled the house and spilled out to the back patio at my family’s big Thanksgiving celebration. Plates of turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce had already been scraped clean, and now everyone was nibbling slices of pumpkin pie that grandma and I had baked the day before.
“Wasn’t me!” “I didn’t eat it!” Heads shook in response to Hassan’s announcement of the missing pie. No one claimed responsibility.
Feelings of Guilt
Maybe it was ME, I thought. I tried to remember how it could have happened. Since I had been in and out of the kitchen, serving food and clearing away dirty dishes, it was quite possible that I had picked up his plate by mistake. I started feeling guilty. I must have eaten it.
“Um, Hassan… I think I ate your pie,” I confessed. “I’m so sorry.”
Hassan looked at me in exaggerated shock. “YOU ate my pie? I didn’t think you would do such a thing.” He pretended to be hurt.
“Don’t worry,” I responded hurriedly, “I think we have one more piece in the kitchen.” Gladly accepting my offering, Hassan told me all was forgiven. But I was thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed. How could I have done that? I berated myself inwardly. I should have noticed that it wasn’t my plate.
Guilty… Without Cause
Forking a generous mouthful, Hassan grinned mischievously. “Mmm-mmm! This sure is delicious. Almost as good as the first piece!”
He laughed at my confused look. “Nobody stole my pie,” he admitted slyly. “I ate it myself. But it was nice of you to take the blame so I could get another piece!”
I could feel my face flush as the truth sunk in. I had actually convinced myself that I was responsible for something I hadn’t done. I had accepted the blame and also made myself feel guilty unnecessarily.
“Guilt is sort of like spiritual cholesterol,” writes Dr. James Bradford in his article Good Guilt, Bad Guilt. “There is the good kind and the bad kind.” II Corinthians 7:10-11 tells us that “worldly sorrow” is the bad kind of guilt. It leads to condemnation, shame and despair. But “godly sorrow” is the good kind of guilt – when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sins we have committed. As a result, godly sorrow leads to repentance and restoration.
Do you feel guilty for things that you don’t need to feel guilty about? Is your guilt stemming from conviction or condemnation? You don’t have to suffer under condemning thoughts. Instead, receive the Lord’s forgiveness and be free of the “bad guilt” today!
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” II Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)