4 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Conviction and Condemnation

4 ways to tell the difference between condemnation and conviction

We have all felt the sting of conviction and the heaviness of condemnation, but sometimes it can be hard to differentiate.  I used to walk with the burden of condemnation resting on my shoulders- often feeling as though I didn’t measure up.  But once I learned to tell the difference between the two, I was set free to follow Jesus’ leading instead of the enemy’s accusations or my own thoughts.

(And this is not my own wisdom, many godly teachers over the past decade have echoed this truth to me.)

1. Conviction is specific.  Condemnation is vague.

Conviction is specific. Condemnation is vague. #Christian Click To Tweet

Conviction highlights a specific action or thought or word that was wrong.  Condemnation gives you a general feeling or sense that you are bad or you may have done something wrong, but you are not sure.  God doesn’t operate like that.  Why would a loving Father want you to feel bad and not tell you what you did wrong?

Conviction:  When you gossiped about your co-worker, that was wrong.

Condemnation: General feelings of badness or being a sinner or unworthy or fat or ugly or dumb or whatever.

2. Conviction provides a way out.  Condemnation traps you.

With conviction, there is a way to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.  With condemnation, you are stuck in your sin.

Conviction: When you stole the candy from the shop, that was wrong.  You can say you are sorry and return the candy.  Problem solved.

Condemnation:  You are a bad person because you stole that candy.  You will never be a good person.  This will hang over your head forever.

Now, I understand that most of what we face is more complex than stealing candy from the shop, but the principle remains the same.  With God’s conviction, there is always a way out of the mess.

3.  Conviction addresses the sin.  Condemnation accuses the person.

God loves humanity.  He made us.  He wants us to thrive.  God hates sin because it destroys the people that He loves.  When God convicts us, He addresses the sin and convicts us of who we are in Jesus.  He wants us to live according to the high calling that we have received, as a true child of a King, because that is now who we are.

Conviction:  When you judged that person’s intention, that was sin.  You are now a merciful and gracious person because my Sprit is within you and you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Live according to that truth, not according to your old self.

Condemnation:  You are judgmental.  You are always looking down on everyone else.  You are so proud.

4.  Conviction brings hope.  Condemnation brings hopelessness.

Conviction calls us back to relationship with God.  Condemnation makes us want to run away from God.  Bill Johnson of Bethel often says that if you have hopelessness in your life, you are believing a lie in that area.

Conviction:  You are better than this.  Even though you messed up, you are not stuck here and you are learning to live according to your new identity.  Even though you stumbled, you are not knocked out.

Condemnation:  You are a failure.  You will never change.  You are a fraud and a hypocrite.  You might as well just continue in your sin because you are a sinner.

4 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

We must remember that the judgement that we deserved for sin was put on Jesus (Romans 6:10 and pretty much most of the book of Hebrews!).  God no longer counts our sins against us because He counted them against Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19).

There is no place for condemnation and heaviness in a Christian’s life because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  This is why it’s called GOOD NEWS!

When I was first learning to differentiate between conviction and condemnation, I would still often get stuck on a particular action or thought I had had, wondering if that was sin or not.  I began asking the Holy Spirit to bring it up to me in a few days’ time if it truly was His conviction, and if it was not, that the accusation would fall to the ground.  I found that by praying that prayer, it set me free from the guilt of the moment.  God was faithful to bring it up if it was something I needed to address later on, and I found that most of the time, it never came back again because it was actually just condemnation.

I hope this helps bring more freedom into your life like it did in mine!



  • Meghan August 19, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I am so glad you were my neighbor at #GraceAndTruth today. I have struggled with this my whole life! Sometimes at church I can’t even tell the difference, and I know that may sound weird or rude, but there are some things I have been confused about that have been said and I am trying to learn Truth so I can be set free! The specifics you listed are amazing and I am going to use that prayer. Thanks for sharing today and know this was an answered prayer to my plea for help.

    • Brooke Grangard August 19, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      I’m so glad we were neighbors too! Yes, this teaching has helped me SO much. I’m so glad others shared it with me and that I was able to pass it on to you. Here’s to more freedom!

  • Debbie Wilson August 19, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Brooke, this is something I’ve dealt with too. I love that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! That powerful verse follows Romans 7 where Paul says he does the things he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants! Your list is right on. I’d add one more that may fall under your “gives hope.” Correction from the Holy Spirit exalts Christ. By reminding us Jesus paid for our sins we become Christ-focused. As you’ve pointed out, condemnation keeps the focus on us and our sin. Great post!

    • Brooke Grangard August 19, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Yes, I love that Debbie. Conviction always points us back to Jesus and who we are in Him. And He gives us the power to walk out of the sin that once trapped us. Forgiveness and power to change. I still come back to it again and again. Thanks for visiting!

  • Patty August 19, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing these Biblical points. I love the clear differences you indicate between conviction and condemnation! This is definitely a clear reminder that will help me discern the source of the thoughts I have regarding my actions and those of others around me, too!

    God bless,

  • Carmen August 20, 2016 at 1:18 am

    This is perfect timing for me. We are actually in a series about learning the difference between conviction and condemnation at my church. We started two weeks ago. This helped me a lot to understand a few things better! Thank you for the share!

    • Brooke Grangard August 20, 2016 at 7:13 am

      I’m so glad, Carmen! This teaching helped me a lot too!

  • Michele Morin August 20, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Romans 8 is one of my go to chapters, so I loved this very specific application of what Paul meant. Thanks for trumpeting the beauty of our freedom in Christ!

    • Brooke Grangard August 20, 2016 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks, Michele. It still amazes me how this Good News can bring fresh revelation again and again.

  • Amanda August 20, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Wow! This is a great post that I would consider a must-read. It’s so important to know the difference between conviction and condemnation. Also, your last section about asking the Lord to bring it up in a few days IF it was conviction from Him during times when it was difficult for you to tell, that was excellent! I’m going to be applying this practical hint myself.

    • Brooke Grangard August 20, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks, Amanda. Yes, may we know more and more freedom in Jesus!

  • Kelly Smith August 23, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Very insightful! It is easy to get trapped under condemnation. The enemy loves to use it against us and render us useless for kingdom work. But conviction is freeing. It recognizes the grace waiting for us . It calls us to righteousness. I love this! Pinning to review again! Happy to be your #RaRalinkup neighbor this morning!

    • Brooke Grangard August 23, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Thanks, Kelly. Yes, it’s amazing how loving and freeing the voice of conviction is. Thanks for the repin and nice being your neighbor as well!

  • Valerie August 24, 2016 at 8:34 am

    This is such a great explanation! I love how when you are not sure you pray and wait to see if it comes up again. And I love that conviction frees us and draws us closer to Jesus.

  • Crystal Twaddell August 25, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Conviction brings hope!!! And it releases shame! Once again, you gave me something to really think about:) Crystal

    • Brooke Grangard August 25, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Yes! It’s so freeing! Just passing on what others have taught me!

  • Cindy Barnes February 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Great post! Love the simple layout. Easy to read, easy to understand and grasp the truth. Thank you for writing this! I shared it on my FB timeline too.

    • Brooke Grangard February 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      Thanks, Cindy! I hope this truth helps others like it helped me!


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