Guilt is such a strange thing. It is something that we make ourselves feel as well as something we often seek to produce in others. We use guilt to punish ourselves for not meeting certain standards and it comes in handy to keep the people around acting the way we think they should.
Tragically it can infect our church culture. Guilt is a devastating weapon when used from the pulpit. Whether in sermons or in personal conversations guilt is a common tool in our religious arsenal.
The problem with guilt is; it doesn’t work. Worse than that, it is counterproductive to a life with Jesus where His Spirit is working within us as we grow and change. Another problem with guilt is that it is not from God. Guilt is a product of a world broken by sin.
So why do we use it? Because it works
wait…didn’t you just say it doesn’t work!? well, yeah, I did, and it doesn’t…hold on, let me explain. We use guilt bc it does accomplish what we want it to… in the short term. We get immediate gratification from it, which, as humans, is one of our favourites! But unfortunately, over time it doesn’t work.
For example, if I ditch worship services for a few weeks bc I’m losing touch with the church, somebody might be able to guilt me into coming back, but what have they accomplished? They have gotten immediate results, but guilt won’t keep me there for long. Likewise, a parent can send a child on a guilt trip to get them to do what the parent wants, but in the long term this does not achieve what the parent really desires, does it?
Why is guilt so systemic in our society? Why doesn’t it work? What WOULD work instead? We’ll answer all these questions in our next post….or two.