Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A 'Guilty Verdict' on Guilt

It's heavy, it's large, it comes without charge:
It's guilt.
We pick it up, we hold it tight, we may not even sleep at night:
It's guilt.
We wear it, we pamper it, there is no real damper for it:
It's guilt. 
We are loved and forgiven, but yet we are riven 
With guilt. 
De dum de dum de dum. Guilt.

I read some blogs, you know. I know some lovely people, some of whom are Christian. Some of those nice people are exemplary in the way that they live their lives and in all that they say and do. Yes most of those people, and I am willing to bet even you, dear Reader, carry 200lbs of excess weight. You aren't carrying it because you have been asked to, or because anyone else wants you to. You aren't carrying it because you want to, or because it is desirable to do so. We carry it because we think that we should.

In my not inconsiderable time in Christian circles, I have become increasing frustrated with this paradox - the 'God has forgiven me' bit weighing against the 'But I feel so guilty about X Y Z'. 

What do we, as Christians, "have"?

1. Hope in the Resurrection, and the promise of eternal life
2. The sure knowledge that when repentant, God will forgive us every sin and rejoice at a lost sheep found.
3. The gifts of the sacraments - God's outward signs of His endless grace.
4. Comprehensive scriptures from which we can educate, edify and nourish our faith
5. The gift of faith in the first place - that we are surely saved. 
6. The Epiphany in which we share even this day.
7. The mightiest 'friend' in the highest of places.
8. The gift of love in such abundance that we will never know its absence
9. A sacrifice made for us that we may live
10. Quite a lot of guilt.

Why? We have so much, yet feel guilty that we, as mere mortals, could ever be this loved, saved and protected. We feel guilty about being Christians at times too - which is why our noble nation is one that apologises for it (are not 70% of us professed if not practising Christians?). We feel guilty if we do, and we feel guilty if we don't. We feel guilty when we pray because it is not enough, and when we pray more, we move our own goal-posts. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

When we cock it up, that is the time to feel some measure of guilt. When it is a resolved cock-up, the lesson learned, we should lay down that burden. When we feel guilty for being the recipients of the purest and most wonderful gifts ever known, that is when it is a problematic appetite. When we feel guilty about something, we can never fully let go and enjoy (life, the moment, the thing, the person) and guilt is slowly robbing us all of pure wonder and much of our life. 

It is alright to not feel guilty. It is not a source of growth, it is a source of inhibition and stifling. Put some of it down, it is dragging you backwards!


  1. The public life we live; the face we wear in every-day life is often a mask for what goes on inside. While it is easy to forgive yourself if you have forsworn that for which you feel guilt, it is not possible to do so if you are still guilty (in thought, if not in deed) of your particular sin.
    I would love to be able to live a guilt-free life, but since I have a conscience I cannot.

  2. Thanks for this R. Guilt for specifics - that I can understand and am subject to the same. However, the guilt that accompanies life without the hooks that you describe is endemic in religious folk, I think.

    Equally, I said nothing about a guilt-free life, but rather the focus on a less guilt-laden one.

  3. Yes, thankyou, I think I missed the point a bit. There is, I am sure, a sort of collective guilt from which we all suffer. Perhaps it's the have's and have nots aspect of the world which weighs on us, and since by and large there is little we can do about that, putting down some of the burden probably is the only way to live healthily.
    There is maybe a tendancy to try to take others' sins on our shoulders when, as you pointed out Christ has done this for us.



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