Monday, January 7, 2013
A Christian friend of mine recently asked me if I feel guilt. It was such an odd question to me because it's not like I had just kicked a little girl's puppy and laughed about it. We were just having a debate about the mechanics of God's forgiveness, but we hadn't hinted at guilt in the preceding discussion.
Guilt is BIG in Christianity, and there is no need to rehash that here, but I did want to share thoughts about how I process guilt, because I think most people do it all wrong! ;-)
Guilt is a mental pain which should be used to teach you a lesson. Just like the physical pain you would get if you touched a hot stove teaches you not to do touch hot things and helps preserve your health, guilt should be processed the same way.
Guilt teaches you not to do particular actions (or to do other actions), which ultimately helps preserve your health, the health of your relationships, and the health of the community at large.
And here's the key: Once you learn your lesson, there's no point to clinging on to that guilt. Let it go.
Just like in our physical analogy of burning yourself, if you keep touching the burnt skin, it will not properly heal. If you keep recycling though your guilt causing memories, that guilt will not properly heal either.
That's not to say you will not think of those memories and have some guilt from time to time, just like your burnt skin will still be painful when you accidentally bump it in its healing process. But there is a big difference between bumping a burn blister and rubbing it on a cheese grater, just like there is a difference between passively thinking of the guilty memories and actively looping and focusing on them.
The point is this: We were not born knowing everything. We will make mistakes. Learn from them, and move on. Do not define yourself by what you have done. Define yourself by what you will do.