Jill: Last weekend at the Hearts at Home conference, I spent some time with a woman whose marriage was at seven years of healing from her infidelity. There is still so much pain in their marriage, though, and it seems they are stuck.  The more we talked the more I realized that one reason they were not moving forward is that they were living in condemnation rather than conviction.

Mark: Very simply, conviction says “I did a bad thing.” Condemnation says, “I did a bad thing, therefore I’m a bad person.” Ever so slight difference, yet HUGE when it comes to moving past an issue.

Jill: Conviction is from the God and it is designed to turn us around when we’re headed in the wrong direction. It allows us to identify our sin, learn from it, and make a 180 degree turn in the other direction. Conviction allows us to own our stuff, apologize, ask for forgiveness, but NOT BE DEFINED BY IT.

Mark: Condemnation, however, is from the enemy. It makes us feel guilty, ashamed, and even depressed. We stew, regret, blame, and shame until we believe we’re no good and no one will want us or forgive us.  In condemnation, the enemy twists and turns our thoughts in an effort to keep us stuck, isolated, and unable to heal.  Many who deal with condemnation in adulthood had the seeds planted in childhood or in previous relationships. That was certainly the case for me as I struggled with low self-esteem and self doubt.  In my early years, I was told my voice didn’t matter, I was a screw up, and I couldn’t think for myself. Condemnation started early and I carried those “voices” into adulthood. I didn’t need someone else saying them…I could now recite them to myself.

Jill: When we make a mistake, sin, or head in the wrong direction, God’s conviction is like the GPS saying “recalculating” or “return to route” or “make a U-turn.”  It doesn’t beat us up, or nag us. God simply wants us to make the adjustment (repent), head in the right direction, and move on. If we were just a little off track, it’s not a big deal. If we were a lot off track, it will likely require more healing time both personally and in the relationships that were affected, but at least healing can take place.

Mark: I’ve walked in condemnation most of my life. Thankfully, when I made my u-turn after the affair, I’ve worked hard and stayed committed to only walked in conviction. I’ve seen it make a HUGE difference in my ability to heal as an individual and our ability to heal as a couple.  Not only that, but it’s conviction that has allowed me to share the story so publicly. I’m not defined by my sin. Conviction got me back on the right path. Condemnation would have stopped me from healing and from sharing my story with so many others.

Jill: For the woman I spent time talking to at the conference, she had yet to forgive herself, which is key to moving out of condemnation. She also didn’t have any self-compassion.  And her husband was continuing to ask “why?” and “how could you?” which was also keeping her in a place of condemnation.  However, as she shared just a little bit about her husband it seemed that he also may be sitting in condemnation. He may feel “defined” by his wife’s actions, taking them personally, rather than seeing them as evidence of her own confusion.

Mark: Marriage causes us to bump into each other’s imperfect. When that happens we need to experience conviction to clean up the mess and move on. However, we have to resist the enemy’s whispers of condemnation that keep us in self-pity, bitterness, blame, and shame. Our God is a God of second chances. He’s filled with love and grace and forgiveness.  That’s what He models for us and how we need to learn to respond to ourselves and others when one of us gets off track.

What about you? Do you experience conviction or condemnation more often? What can you do to intentionally keep from tripping over the condemnation line? 

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