Delving Deeper into the Innocence/Guilt Worldview

This is part three of a 4-part series on the Three Colors of Worldview. Links to the other articles are at the bottom.

In a predominant Innocence/Guilt society, people are driven by the concepts of right and wrong, rules and laws. One seeks to maintain innocence and a good reputation by aligning with accepted principles and rules: doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. Individual accountability usually has a strong emphasis. Justice, fairness and consistency are important concepts. Right and wrong are generally defined by standards or laws and lawbreakers are dealt with by “judges” and “law enforcement”. 

Being considered innocent and right is both internal (self-esteem) as an external. Emancipation movements are an example of the latter. These movements are especially strong in societies where I/G is a significant driver - One wants to be considered innocent by the outside world.

Written contracts are paramount to give structure to formal relationship, and communication tends to be direct with an emphasis on the verbal part of communication.

The legal system has a linear nature, “If you do this, these are the consequences”, and every detail is spelled out in long laws and jurisprudence.

Relating to People with an Innocence/Guilt Worldview

People with a primary Innocence/Guilt worldview tend to be more "values" and "principles" driven than the other worldviews. Right/wrong, truth/lies are important to consider when relating. Individual responsibility and accountability is also more important.

In conflict situations, backing up your opinion with facts is important. People in an Innocence/Guilt society tend to separate the issue from the person and may seem inconsiderate towards your reputation, seniority etc. In conflict resolution and reconciling relationship, it is important to admit when you’re wrong. This doesn’t diminish your reputation in their eyes, but actually builds it. In the same way, apologizing for what you did wrong is important.

In your interactions, direct communication and linear reasoning are usually appreciated. 

Shifting Dynamics

In the previous article, we touched upon the fact that younger generations in the USA, for instance, are moving more towards a stronger influence of H/S in their worldview.

We also see the opposite happen, societies that move more into the I/G direction. Reasons for moving into an I/G direction might be an increase in wealth for a society, where people are less dependent on each other for survival because of their increased wealth.

Urbanization can also be a reason for a shift in the direction of I/G. As society becomes more complex, there is simply a need for more rules to keep things functioning and more rules (and more enforcement of rules) can then bring a stronger sense of Innocence/Guilt over time.

Innocence/Guilt and the Christian Faith

Most of the history the Bible chronicles is of societies with a strong or dominant Honor/Shame worldview and a lot of the message of the Bible (Creation/Fall/Covenants/Redemption) is expressed in Honor/Shame Message. However, this doesn’t mean that Innocence/Guilt takes a backseat in the Bible. 

If we look at the story of the fall in Genesis 3, we see that both positional guilt and emotional guilt were a result of Adam & Eve’s actions and God calls Adam out for breaking the one command they were supposed to keep.

The law of Moses spends a lot of effort defining right from wrong and what penalties need to be paid to right a wrong. God is a God of justice. (Micah 6:8) Through his prophets, He calls out the sin and injustices committed by the Israelites, especially against he vulnerable in society like the poor, widows and orphans.

Innocence/Guilt may not have been the dominant driver for the Israelites (I think that Power/Fear and Honor/Shame were the dominant drivers), but they certainly had a sense of right and wrong. When God sent them into exile, they appeal to God’s sense of right and wrong by complaining that the children were punished for the sin of their fathers. (Ez. 18:1-18, Ex. 20:5-6) 

At the cross Jesus dealt with the problem of sin by being the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Jesus paid the price for our sins and we’re no longer guilty (Is. 53:4-5). He even cleanses our consciousness from acts that lead to death. (Heb. 9:14)


This is part three of a 4-part series on the Three Colors of Worldview. Below are the links to the other articles.

If you want build your understanding of culture and worldviews, and your ability to relate better to people who are different, join us for a workshop or an e-Learning journey.

1. The Three Colors of Worldview

2. Delving Deeper into the Honor/Shame Worldview

3. Delving Deeper into the Innocence/Guilt Worldview

4. Delving Deeper into the Power/Fear Worldview

Published April 29th, 2019 

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