The Guilt Game – Don’t Play It

Do you allow others to control you by guilting you? Do you change your plans or feel shame and inferior because someone poured the hot grease of blame and shame down your back?Shame and blame are cruel weapons to manipulate people into doing and into thinking ideas that you are reluctant to do and that are against your better judgment by a person who desires to control you. Controlling people throw guilt to make you feel bad for the purpose of ruling you which fulfills their sick need for power. And in some cases, they simply want you to feel indebted to them in order to make you serve them.

Jesus refused to play the throw and catch guilt game. To maintain your integrity and identity, you and I need to decline playing that game too.

The Pharisees couldn’t control Jesus by guilting Him. Oh, they tried and used every weapon in their arsenal. But, they couldn’t control him. He knew who he was and is, and therefore, He was confident in his actions, teachings, and thoughts. His Father affirmed his identity by saying on several occasions, “This is my beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17).

Both His opponents and friends tried guilting him into submission. Their fiery attacks were powerless against him.

Their are numerous instances in the Gospel narratives that show how Jesus refused to play the throw and catch guilt game both with the Pharisees and with his disciples.

One example is found in Matthew 15. The Pharisees were infatuated with their love for power and control. Anyone who questioned or threatened their dominant position had to be quickly eliminated, discredited, or silenced.

Jesus was their biggest threat as more and more people followed and listened to His message of hope, forgiveness, and love which was the antithesis of the Pharisees legalism based on making people feel guilty and ashamed.

But, the Pharisees weren’t alone in their thirst for power and significance. Power and significance were also desired by Jesus’ disciples.

Sadly, the disciples did not want to upset or embarrass these Pharisee power-brokers and be shunned by them. Incredibly, they questioned Jesus when He challenged the Pharisees and teachers of the law. “The disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12).

Jesus’ disciples wanted power too as evidenced by James and John’s desire to sit on the right and left hands of Jesus in His kingdom. They coveted power and authority. ““Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (Mark 10:37).

Here’s the incident that embarrassed the disciples from Matthew 15 with my comments.

“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat.'” In effect, the Pharisees were saying, “We want to control you. We will control you by throwing the mud-ball of guilt at you. You and your disciples don’t wash their hands like the Law of Moses says you should do. It’s Bible. It’s in the Old Testament. Wash your hands before you eat! You’re not obeying the Bible. Obey the Bible and wash your hands! Do what we say or your guilty of breaking the commandment.”

You see, the real issue was not obeying the Bible. The real issue was that they couldn’t control Jesus so they threw some Bible-guilt at Him in an effort to rule over Him like they did everyone else. If they could control Him here, then they could control Him in other ways until they had total mastery over Him.

Have you ever had the Bible thrown at you? I have. Here’s one instance out of many. After a sermon I preached, a church member came up to me and and spread the shame manure all over me. She said, “And you call yourself a preacher!? My Bible says divorce and remarriage is adultery! How can you stand up there and preach?”

The issue was not my divorce and remarriage but a sermon I preached that this woman didn’t like. I explained to her my basis for what I had said and my interpretation of the passage that she intercepted differently. When she failed to win me over to her point of view, she threw the old guilt slime ball at me using God’s Word no less just like the Pharisees did to Jesus. I refused to catch it! She huffed off mad as an old wet settin’ hen and gave me the silent treatment for a few Sundays. She even went out of the sanctuary’s side door rather than the front door to avoid shaking hands with me.

People like this lady and the Pharisees misuse the Bible to throw guilt in an attempt to rule over the person they seek to control.

Going back to the dialog with my comments on Matthew 15, how did the disciples throw guilt at Jesus?

“Then the disciples came to him and asked, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?'” They were in effect exclaiming, “Good grief! Do you know what you just did? You’ve ticked off the religious rulers! We’ll never be accepted by them. Why did you do that? Don’t do it again or we’ll be outsiders forever!” They threw guilt at a Jesus, but he refused to catch it!

Jesus’ closest friends wanted to control him through guilting Him and trying to make him feel bad so He wouldn’t embarrass them again in front of the Pharisees. As with all guilt-throwers, their concern was with them themselves and not with Jesus. It’s always about them and not you!

Think back over the past about significant guilt-throwers who controlled you through guilt and how you turned into a people-pleaser at the expense of you own personhood. I’m thinking of my mom and dad. They were professional ball players in the guilt game. They no doubt learned the game from their parents. I recall an incident when Dad and I were working in the yard. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to play with my buddies in the football game going on down the street. I didn’t put my heart into weeding my section of the yard. Dad got madder and madder at my half-hearted attitude and threw the old guilt ball at me. “You’ll never amount to a hill of beans!” Well, it worked! I didn’t want dad to think badly of me and renewed my efforts to finish the job so I could go and play. Guilt is a powerful inducement to spur action.

Yes, guilt motivates, but it is a poor motivator.

What missiles of guilt have been shot at you in your past? What is being thrown at you in the present? How does it make you feel? Here are a few from the guilt-throwers missiles.

• “If you loved me you would…

• If you really cared about me, you would …

• If you were my friend you would not have done that…

• I have done so much for you, so why can’t you do this small favor?

• How could you do that?”

Who throws guilt at you? A parent? A child? A boss? An employee? A “friend?” A “guilt-throwing preacher? Who?

I think the worst guilt thrower was a kid I taught. He had his parents under his thumb. The kid completely controlled them. If he didn’t get his way, he threw his nuclear missile at them, and it worked every time. He would say, “I’m just going to go out and kill myself. You make my life miserable.” And one time, he did half heatedly attempt suicide by cutting himself. His concerned parents rightly put him in therapy, but he still dropped the nuclear bomb on them when it suited his purpose.

I don’t know what became of that boy after he left my school. But, launching the suicide nuclear missile of guilt is tough to handle. It’s beyond my training and education in psychology to know the answers. All I know is that it worked for this kid. A psychiatrist probably has good counsel on dealing with the suicide guilt-thrower. But I do know this. It is the most powerful way to induce guilt and gain control that there is.

Guilt throwers use guilt to control you and get you to do the things they want you to do. They use guilt to manipulate you by condemning, judging, disapproving, threatening, blaming, and expressing disappointment in you. They may give you the “silent treatment” wanting you to feel miserable in order to give into their demands. They want you to do what they want you to do. They huff off wanting you to run after them. They want you to apologize for some slight they perceive is wrong. They throw false guilt at you in order to manipulate you to see things their way and control you. They know how to pull your strings and press your buttons.

A long while back, I purposely played the throw and catch guilt game with my wife. We were in the grocery store. Every time that she put something in the buggy, I made her feel guilty. I said things like, “Are you sure you want that? This brand is better. I really don’t like that. Can’t you find something that I like for a change instead of what you like? We have spaghetti every week. I’m tired of it.”

I manipulated her like a puppet on a string. She began to question her good judgment and put items back on the shelf and then put in the basket stuff that I wanted. After about five or ten minutes playing my game, I told her what I was doing. Fortunately, she didn’t knock me over the head with a bottle of spaghetti sauce. She laughed. I laughed, and we talked about it. Both of us suffered from guilt throwers in our past and in our present. We resolved not to catch the guilt thrown at us from anyone again! It’s liberating.

Are you a guilt-catcher? If you are, you probably hate and punish yourself and feel out of control over your life because the guilt-thrower is ruling you. Worse, to atone for this false guilt, a guilt-catcher ramps up his/her efforts to please the guilt-thrower resulting in more self-hate because of his/her weakness in allowing the guilt-thrower to control and manipulate him/her.

The truth is that you can’t please guilt throwers no matter how you attempt to satisfy them. You always come up short. They will always find fault with you. Nothing you do or say will please them! NOTHING!

So, how do you quit playing their guilt throw and catch game?

Here are a few practical suggestions.

1 Ask the guilt-thrower questions like, “You are not trying to make me feel guilty are you?,”

2 Make statements like, “I’m not catching that guilt ball you’re throwing at me any more.”

3 Or something like this, “Just because I won’t give you the money doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It’s just that I don’t want to.”

You don’t have to justify or rationalize what you say, do, or don’t do to a guilt-thrower because nothing satisfies him/her. Your responsibility is to yourself. You lose your dignity, self-respect, and self-esteem when you allow others to guilt you into behavior you don’t want to do. You will never receive affirmation from the guilt-throwers because they will always find fault with you like the Pharisees did with Jesus. You lose your self-hood when someone else controls you.

Remember the examples that Jesus left for us. He REFUSED to be manipulated by guilt-throwers. He refused to play their game of throw and catch.

My prayer is for the image of Christ to be formed you. The Father wants to form the image of the Son in you through the Spirit of Christ living in you. Let him. Refuse to allow others to make you into their image by guilting you to conform to their way of thinking or acting the way they want you to act in order to control you. Don’t catch that guilt and be loaded with that miserable feeling of false guilt. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit of Christ who gives strength to you to stand against those who guilt you through condemnation, judgment, and disapproval.

Know who you are in Christ. Know who Christ says you are.

Know that you are forgiven of every bad thing you ever did and every bad thought you ever thought. You are cleansed by the blood of Christ. There is no guilt because He took it away. “But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds” (Isaiah 53:5).

Christ makes us righteous – to be right and to do right. Guilt-throwers imply that you are ‘bad.’ To them, you have done something bad, missing something, not doing or being enough, and you don’t measure up in their eyes.

Since Christ has made you good (righteous), don’t let someone drag you through the muck. “For God made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus refused to catch guilt thrown at Him because He knew who He was and is. Knowing who you are in Christ and how to recognize and respond to guilt throwers will get you out of the throw and catch guilt game and into the affirmation and peace only Jesus gives!

And remember this, Jesus sets you free from guilt and shame. He forgave and forgives us by taking our guilt and crucifying it on the cross. You are liberated. Therefore, refuse the guilt from those who seek to manipulate you through shame, blame and guilt!

Jesus’ forgiveness sets you free! The Scripture says, “Jesus is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:7).

May you live in freedom from guilt and shame through the kindness and grace of Jesus. That’s what He wants for you so much that He gave His life, bore your guilt and shame, and suffered death for you and me. Amen.

Thanks for reading. ————————————————————————-