Ganging Up On The Guilties

guilty dogI’ve got a gift for guilt.

For one thing, I was born with what mum calls a ‘guilty face’.  It looks like I did something bad, even when I didn’t.  But the more I’m quizzed, the more I start to think I did it. Like at primary school when someone blocked the toilets and the headmaster said we weren’t leaving until the guilty person owned up and I had to sit on my hands to stop myself confessing even though we all knew it was Barry (it was always Barry).

Dogs are guilty. Cats – never.  When we first tried to litter-train ours, they used to eyeball me during Don’t Tell the Bride, then coolly poo just outside the box. Such was their skill, that I would end up apologising and blaming myself for buying cheap catfood.  (We upgraded and it made not a button of difference).

You name it, I’ll feel bad about it.  Not ironing pants. Using the dishwasher. Buying cheap cling film.  Giving up on books. An eating disorder. Being bad at hugs. Stockpiling licorice tea. Pretending to listen when I’m not.

Serious things. Stupid things. Stuff I did in the past. Stuff I might do in the future.

You read a lot about Catholic guilt, but I think Protestants are the ones with the issues.  After all, as a Catholic, even if you  do something really bad, you’ve got someone whose job it is to tell you it’s forgiven. In Protestant culture (well, mine at least), you’re never really sure.

I can’t help feeling if we actually confessed our sins – not necessarily to a priest but – to one another, there might be a tangible way of moving forwards. James 5 says:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

John puts it like this (and it’s a decent bet that he had some kind of public confession in mind):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)

When it comes to guilt it seems like a case of ‘better out than in’ – especially as we ‘walk in the light.’

I don’t mean telling the world your secret shame. Obviously we need to be wise. Nor do I just mean ‘accountability groups’. These can be good. But they can also be bad.  Bad as in terrifying and an exercise in sin minimisation, where you confess to not praying for missionaries but are too scared to admit to the real stuff.

Instead of playing down our mistakes, James and John are talking about something else. Sin maximisation. Not a competition to be as bad as possible or a chance to glory in your wickedness. Instead, a commitment to naming our worst before a trusted friend or friends and allowing them to pray for us and declare to us the forgiveness of Jesus from the Bible.

Maybe what stops forgiveness feeling real is a dislike of being real with other Christians. Maybe the path upwards to living in grace begins by heading downwards to vulnerability and confession. Don’t just think accountability group (scary).  Think friendship, (great). If we’ve all got the guilties, let’s fight ’em together.

3 thoughts on “Ganging Up On The Guilties

  1. Alright I admit it! My recovery is a total sham. I’m a poser.

    I’m not really getting any better. One tiny wobble and I am back in the throws of PTSD. An anxiety ridden, traumatized zombie. Looking to someone/something other than God to give me a sense of safety and ultimate meaning. All my changes have been behavioral. Again. Boo Hoo.

    I started a new group and healing workbook, but it’s all the same: tell your story. I am so utterly sick of telling that story. I had such hopes.

  2. I guess one of the benefits of groups is that they don’t condemn us as quickly as we condemn ourselves. Sometimes other people can see things we don’t – and progress when we feel despair. That’s one of the reasons for community (Prov 20:5). Have you asked your group what they think? x

  3. Not so helpful. I guess that’s why I am looking at this thing so closely.
    I had been holding out for this group thinking it was a key to something but as I began to read ahead through the materials I sank. Drat. It’s just another program.
    After I shared, the group all said if you have a gut feeling that you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, then it’s highly likely. There is probably more coming, so get someplace safe.
    Now, I don’t know this is true, but even if it is, this is the very thing that makes me realize how utterly bound I still am to someone else’s lifestyle choices and world view.
    I feel like I am on pause, waiting to respond. Too vulnerable.
    You can’t live on pause.
    I obviously still believe being in relationship is where life is found, even though I know in my head this is not possibly true. You can’t even have relationship without two willing people, one willing person is ministry.

    On the other hand, this “gut feeling” stuff could just be me projecting fears/insecurities from one area to another. Lord knows there’s enough mess in there to get pretty mixed up, but I’ve used that excuse so many times to silence a lot of actual warning signs in the past. So hard to know what’s true. But again this just proves the point that my stability is still so dependent on another person’s choices.
    I thought I was growing, changing, healing. Drat drat drat.

    Stuck in trauma cycles and very discouraged. But even so my whole focus seems so off centered, self centered, other centered, and not at all Christ centered…which is what makes this a confession.

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