Electric Fences

ELECTRIC_FENCEDid you ever do something for no other reason than to avoid the guilt you’d feel if you didn’t?

Have you ever not done something just to escape that uncomfortable guilty feeling?

I have.

Guilt is a relational term. It means that someone is responsible for committing an offense against another in the context of relationship. Guilt is an alarm that warns us that something is wrong in a relationship. Guilt is a siren that alerts us that what’s wrong needs to be made right.

If we are really culpable for committing an offense against another person, we should experience guilt. Real guilt is a good and constructive thing.

But there’s another kind of guilt that’s not real at all.  I’ll call it feel-guilt. Feel-guilt is false guilt. It’s feeling guilty when we’ve committed no real offense. It’s having a guilty feeling when we are not in a guilty state.

The enemy loves feel-guilt. He infiltrates relationships and builds electric fences charged with high voltage feel-guilt. With recurring zaps and the constant hum of feel-guilt, he controls and manipulates people, and destroys relational intimacy.

Some communities are formed by electric fences. A household can have behavioral boundaries and expectations defined by feel-guilt fencing.  Religious communities can use decorative fencing electrified by feel-guilt. All of our electric fence-building–and all of our electric-fence minding–is rooted in our own insecurity.  Out of insecurity, we build fences to corral others. Out of insecurity we abide by the fences that others erect to confine us.

That’s no way to live.

God doesn’t build electric fences. Instead, He opens a gate. Jesus is the gate, and His cross is the one place we can take our real guilt so that–through forgiveness–we might experience relationship made right. When we find our security in Him, we don’t need to use feel-guilt to fence in others, and we don’t need to submit to being fenced in ourselves.

In order to experience relational intimacy and live in healthy community—with God and with others—we have to leave electric fences behind.  Liberated by the grace of Jesus, we have been re-born to roam free in fence-less community with God and men.

2 thoughts on “Electric Fences

  1. Uncle Dave,
    This hits a very strong chord with me. I have always had the tendency to take on guilt that is “feel-guilt” and not “real-guilt.” I tend to apologize for things that are unnecessary for me to apologize for. Since Nate and I started talking and dating (over 3 years ago), he has helped me grow in this area. He constantly reminds me that I don’t have to take on things that aren’t mine. Thanks for being another voice of truth in my life in this area specifically. 🙂
    love ya!

    • KB, I understand. I’ve been jolted by feel-guilt a few too many times. Thank you for sharing your experience with this common struggle. I am happy you have a life companion who will help lead you away from those old fences and into the wide open spaces 🙂

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