Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good Guilt

In my formative years, the 60s and 70s, there was great deal of complaining against religion for making people feel guilty. It was as if we wanted to create a guilt-free world where people could feel good about themselves regardless of how they behave.

In today's first reading we hear:
The word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword,
penetrating even between soul and spirit,
joints and marrow,
and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
No creature is concealed from him,
but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.

If that reading just made you a little uncomfortable, that's not a bad thing. It's proof not only that you are human but you are a healthy human.

Catholic theology speaks of natural law written in the hearts of every person. God also gave us a conscience and feelings like guilt, remorse and shame to help us monitor and correct our behavior.

When we try and train people to ignore these feeling we should not be surprised that we need to add words like sexting to the English language or we hear of kids killing each other for a pair of tennis shoes.

Inability to conform to social norms, lack of remorse, rationalizing when we hurt others, and promiscuity are now recognized for what they are, signs of an antisocial personality disorder.

The good news is that just as God has given us feelings like guilt and remorse he has also given us a healthy way to be rid of them. We do wrong; we feel guilt. We confess and our feeling of peace is restored.

Perhaps rather than telling someone not to feel guilty, perhaps we would be better to teach our young people how to acknowledge the feelings of guilt, acknowledge sin, and then trust in the forgiveness of God.

Time to revisit the sacrament of reconciliation.