Being blessed to have friends to discuss all my ‘craziness’ with, the whole “to take or not to take anti-depressants” resulted in an interesting comment: that Christians should not be made to feel ‘guilty’ for using anti-depressants or ‘not being strong enough’ or ‘not being happy’… the whole idea was a shock to me… why on earth would any Christian be upset for ‘needing help’ / ‘being weak’? As far as I’m aware, being weak is the whole point of Christianity, the weaker you are the better. The weaker you are the stronger God gets to be, the more Glory goes to God, the less ‘control’ you have, the more control God has… IT IS GREAT to be weak… being weak gives you a reason to cling to God, being in suffering gives you a reason to spend time with God, trust God, be with God, depend on God and not on man or yourself… If you read Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, God, Love and faith were all the concentration camp prisoners had in their horrendous states of suffering.
Looking at the Book of Job: The entire book is based on Job’s suffering. If Job had not suffered in such extremity, then there wouldn’t have been a book to write or a story to tell. If Job hadn’t had such horrendous suffering/weakness, then God’s speech at the end wouldn’t be so powerful. If Job hadn’t suffered weaknesses then there would have been no faith debate, no religious debate, no conversation at all about the presence, might and practices of God. The premise of the entire Book of Job is his suffering, his weakness, his desperation for God. Job didn’t feel ‘guilty’ (from what I can make out, although he does as for pardon for his frankness) for his pleas, cries or challenges to God, and he was an incredibly blessed man.
Then there was the man who suffered in the belly of a whale. He spent three days in the guts of an animal in the depths of the sea, whilst God sent him back to where he was supposed to be. Jonah was brought to weakness in the stomach of that creature, brought to his knees to follow God, forced to use nothing but prayer to save himself. I don’t recall that Jonah practiced guilt either.
David, the king, suffering from consequences of his actions and the requirements of an Almighty God. Was there guilt in the picture? How could there be when it was the weakness that drew him closer to his Father in Heaven? Maybe the verdict of “guilty” was theirs’, but I don’t get the impression that the ‘emotion of guilt’ was there.
Guilt – Goss, Miller & Graham in their “Grace Course” write that many people walk around with a sense that they are failing God and thus carry a load of guilt. The writers point out logically that “True guilt has nothing to do with feelings. It’s about hard facts. Guilt is a legal term, used when a judge pronounces a defendant guilty. Guilt is defined in relation to a legal authority which has laid down the laws. If we break the laws of that legal authority we are guilty. If we do not, we are innocent. True guilt and guilt feelings are not the same thing.”
If you read through the chapter on INNOCENT! You will find at the end that they observe that: “Just before Jesus died on the cross, HE let out a loud victorious shout “It is finished” (John 19v30). The word that Jesus used is the exact same word that the Roman judge wrote across the released criminal’s Certificate of Debt: “Paid in Full!” This declaration of “not guilty” is not just for when we first came to Christ. God’s grace is for every moment of every day. For those in Jesus Christ, no sin we commit can ever take away one bit from the full and complete sacrifice Jesus paid for us. Despite our sin, we are still forgiven. Our guilt is still gone. Forever.”
Reading through this as someone who has Jesus as her absolute Role Model and God the Father as her centre… I cannot compute how a Christian can feel guilty after praying and doing God’s will? The Debt is “Paid in Full”. So then it may actually be a “shame” in taking anti-depressants, or ‘being weak’?
Once again I return to the same course handout. Chapter three: UNASHAMED! Where they state that “Guilt says: “I did something wrong. I made a mistake.” And Shame says: “There’s something wrong with me. I am the mistake.” Shame is the painful emotional experience that comes from believing that there is something very wrong, not so much with what we have done but with who we are… Shame says that we are what is wrong and puts us into “the less mess”. We believe that we are ‘less’ that others. We feel helpless, worthless, meaningless, powerless, hopeless. It strikes at our belief about who we are, our identity.” Yet, here’s the thing with being a follower of Jesus Christ, through Him and His sacrifice we have a new identity. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who had died has been set free from sin (Romans 6v6-7). Paul is saying that, if death no longer has dominion over you, then neither does sin. This is all about understanding the implications of our new identity. He is at pains to help us realise that our old self that used to live independently of God has been put to death with Christ.”
Therefore, ‘shame’ should also never be an experience for a Christian. We are incredible beings, acting under God’s guidance, listening to His voice, actioning His requests alone, and in doing that, there can be no guilt or shame, because God is Love and all actions in and of Him are based in Love and Truth, ergo, there can be no guilt, or shame… and if there is, then the only logical answer is that the action is not of God.
If I steer away from the purely ‘Christian’ views and take a solidly psychological definition: Louw & Edwards tabulate the emotion of ‘guilt’ as being linked to ‘I am responsible for having done harm’, and ‘Shame’ as ‘the group does not accept me.’ Tying that back again, if you are doing God’s will, then you cannot be doing harm, and if you are with God’s true people, then you cannot ‘not be accepted’; i.e. no guilt and no shame should be present.
Louw & Edward go further in breaking down emotions to the psychological core in their chapter on “motivation and emotion”. Later on, in the “personality” chapter, they state: “As children grow older they begin to compete with others for love or material objects. They develop the capacity for envy, jealousy and guilt.” Freud links this capacity to the “id”. “The id follows the pleasure principle: we seek pleasure and avoid pain. This is balanced by the reality principle.” We cannot take or steal, because then we’d be arrested. Tying this with Christianity, there cannot be guilt because material possessions mean nothing to us and we are all heading to an incredible eternity, thanks to the “Debt Paid in Full” by Jesus Christ; and, as Christians, we are supposed to follow Jesus Christ; and, in our weakness, in the moments of Death, ask God to take the Cup from us, or do His Will. As Christians we are called to suffering to be closer to God, we are not called to be closer to pleasure. Yet, as the Yin and the Yang work together, the more we suffer, the closer we get to God, the more we know Love and inner peace.
Louw & Edward continue explaining the ‘rules’ learnt as children: “Don’t inflict pain”, “Don’t steal” etc. “Rules are enforced by disapproval and punishment. When we break a rule we expect that we will be met with criticism. This is one way we learn to feel guilt.” Yet, as a Christian, we are forgiven, we are following God’s wishes and therefore should not feel guilt… unless we are not following God’s wishes, in which case, the guilt would be a signal that something needs to change to be in line with God again. Thus guilt is very important to acknowledge and analyse: why, and how do I make it stop? What is causing it, and why? Is it the rule that is the problem, or my actions? Because my soul is telling me something is amiss… Personally, it disturbs me that anyone would want to dull their emotions when those emotions are such critical signposts from our Spirit…
Moving to a creative artist’s writings; Cameron writes that people “are easily manipulated by guilt. Our friends… may unconsciously try to guilt-trip us into giving up our newly healthy habits. It is very important to understand…[that your morning time given to God]…is between you and God. You best know your answers. You will be led to new sources of support as you begin to support yourself.” So, if you and God are conversing and He is giving you your path and direction, whatever it may be, then there should never be any guilt at all from His word.
Then, I can spin the story into Walsch’s ‘blasphemous’ writings; when the question is posed: “Why am I so ready to choose the negative and then to spank myself for it?” the answer is: “What can you expect? You were told from your earliest days that you’re “bad”. You accept that you were born in “sin”. Feeling guilty is a ‘learned response’. You’ve been told to feel guilty about yourself for things you did before you could even do anything. You have been taught to feel shame for being born less than perfect. This alleged state of imperfection in which you are said to have come into this world is what your religionists have the gall to call original sin – but it is not yours. It is the first sin to be perpetrated upon you by a world which knows nothing of God if it thinks that God would – or could – create ‘anything’ imperfect.”
How can guilt be created? Socialised? … here’s an example: A young child starting to feel and know, explores their genitals and experiences what they have not experienced before. They go to the person they trust, telling them of their tale. Adult responses then dictate the rest of that child’s story: 1) That is sinful! Don’t ever do it again. 2) That’s all life’s about, you’ll go out and feel that often. Go for it. 3) That is you getting to know your body, the temple of your Spirit, it is your treasure and only share it with the one person who will make you feel incredible. 4) Rape, abuse and/or sale (2012 had an estimated 27 million people living in slave labour). For the rest of that child’s life, in VERY general, very brief summary for the purposes of this blog: 1) They will feel guilt for most of their young lives. 2) They will believe sex is a free for all. 3) They will treasure themselves and share only with those with whom it feels right. 4) Selfish, revolting, vomit-inducing actions will be repeated in yet another generation to yet another innocent child who did not deserve the burden of their parents’ problems.
Guilt… Once again… if there is the feeling of guilt, then it is a signal, not something to be fought, or indulged in. It is a signal, as are anger, frustration, hate and all negative emotions, that either the action or the rule needs to change… because there is no judge who exists to condemn a prayerful, sincere, honest, trying-his/her-best Christian of integrity to: “Guilty”, as every Christian, when they are true followers, knows that “The Debt has been Paid in Full.”