Tag Archives: guilt

For Christmas, I want your forgiveness

havisham estella

The altercation between Estella and her adopted mother.

The fact that I’m 48 doesn’t make me any smarter or wiser than my high school students. It makes me more experienced, particularly in the area of mistakes. I’ve committed more errors than these kids by simple abundance of years.

Of all my sins and guilt, the thing I regret the most are the sins (errors) I committed against my children. I offended my parents rather nonchalantly. I offended my brother and my spouse. But what hurts the most is the conscience of wrongs done against my kids.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Can my children forgive me?

Miss Havisham moans as she wanders aimlessly around her estate in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. She has lost her only love, the love of her adopted daughter, whom she sought to protect against jilting love by making her incapable of love. Call it karma, but the girl who cannot love turned the lack of love against her adopted mother.

So she moans. Her life is now meaningless. Can we forgive ourselves for the wrongs done against our children? Can they forgive us? The cycle of victim-victimizer can only be broken by forgiveness.

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Suspicion is not proof

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar's blood on their hands to celebrate their

It looks like this was a production in England. I gather this is the part where the conspirators smear Caesar’s blood on their hands to celebrate their “victory over tyranny.” But Brutus got it wrong.

Brutus broods. He strongly believes power corrupts. So he worries his friends, Julius Caesar, has given way to ambition. Brutus believes to save the Roman Republic, he must kill his friend in Shakespeare’s play.

Never mind that Caesar thrice has refused the crown. Never mind that when the Brutus and the conspirators bow before Caesar supposedly making a petition (really, they just want to get close to knife him), Caesar begs them to rise and speak as equals. Never mind the facts. In the mind of Brutus, Caesar is guilty, so the noble thing to do is kill him.

Brutus believes too much in his own character. He believes he is invariably right. So from accusing his friend, he passes to conviction, without bothering to trifle with evidence.

This hurts.

It is normal to be suspected of wrong-doing at any given moment. But if the authority doesn’t bother with evidence but simply convinces himself and lashes out at you, it hurts.

If you are in Christian leadership, you should exercise much wisdom:

  1. Always use the lightest correctionary discipline possible, not the heaviest.
  2. Be suspect of “revelation or confirmation of the Holy Spirit.”
  3. Be aware of your own personality and flesh and how that might color your judgement.
  4. Use grace. Forgive others.
  5. Don’t insist on having your way but look for God’s.
  6. Allow the Holy Spirit to rule the church. You are not the Holy Spirit.
  7. Know that the Pharisees exceeded their authority and punished the innocent (Jesus). Don’t join the company of the Pharisees.

Hope these tips are helpful.

* A word about this image: Not mine. Not making $ on it.

Guilt is not so easy

scarlet-letter

Image thanks to https://www.enotes.com.

Just because Hester Prynne unclasps her scarlet letter and flings it away doesn’t mean disposing of guilt is so easy.

As a symbol of the difficulty of working through guilt, Pearl the brat demands her mother put the fabric “A” back on her dress. On one level, the infant simply can’t accept a disruption in her mother’s appearance. But on another level, for Pearl, the letter is like a wedding ring, and casting it off is tantamount to breaking worse her already broken family.

If all you come away with in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is stones to throw at repressive religion, I respectfully suggest you’re not delving past a superficial reading of The Scarlet Letter. That is only one of the themes. Hawthorne’s genius explores the intricacies and complexities of the human psyche, and you’re settling for gold dust and missing the mother load.

scarlet-letter-hester-pearlTo be sure, Hawthorne rains his pen down on failed religion. Arthur Dimmesdale flogs himself and performs excessive good works yet cannot find peace. His understanding of Jesus is deficient. A Christian is neither saved by piety nor charity; he is saved simply by Christ’s forgiveness, which Dimmesdale is blind to.

The book is full of ironies because Dimmesdale’s brokenness makes him the town’s favorite minister. This is eminently keen insight. If you have never suffered, you can’t have compassion on your fellows when ministering the word.

Hester Prynne herself, after her one sin of passion, likewise constrains herself to a rigorous life of charity. She dresses the drabbest colors and constricts her luxurious mane of hair to the insides of a bonnet.

After seven years of suffering, the pair meet in the forest and scheme to run away together back to England. Suddenly, sunshine pours in on them and the feel the exhilarating release of nearly a decade of pressure, scrutiny and condemnation.

It’s a good plan — except that they see themselves a sinners for doing it. Pearl is only the first to ruin it. She insists with a temper tantrum that her mother restore the letter to its rightful place. Then Roger Chillingworth, the evil avenger, completes the fatal stroke by booking passage on the same ship.

In traditional Greek fashion, the story must end as a tragedy. Hawthorne is sounding the dark regions of the human conscious, not writing a treatise on salvation. Nevertheless, the message emerges that only grace, only forgiveness in Jesus, can heal the heart. Religion never works — only relationship with Jesus.

The traditional spin on this book is that society is to blame for oppressing these free spirits. If you want to read the book that way, go ahead. But I can’t help but see deeper. You can’t just throw away guilt so easily. You and I need to come to Christ and be healed of our sin. Restoration works, not repression.