Saturday, June 12, 2010

Got Guilt?

We never have to rationalize with God. We never have to hide our guilt.

Guilt is the awareness and feeling of having done something wrong. Some people blame the Catholic Church for their guilt… “Catholic guilt” it is often called. But the truth is the church is helping us to try and relieve our guilt. Christ came not to overlook our guilt, but to help us to name it and take it from us. Often times when people feel Guilt it is because they are doing or have done something wrong. Sure there are times when we feel guilty and we probably shouldn’t, but I think we are all a little to quick to try and get rid of all of our guilt. This is what psychologists call rationalizing…

According to the DSM-IV, rationalization occurs "when the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by concealing the true motivations for his or her own thoughts, actions, or feelings through the elaboration of reassuring or self serving but incorrect explanations."

You think you don’t do it…. Let’s take a look.

Here’s eight different ways we commonly try to deny our guilt:

1. Moral justification--believing our actions are for a just cause. "I stole to provide for my family" or "I lied to protect my friend" or "I cheated because I just had to pass". I stopped going to church because “Father so and so” was mean to me. I don’t give money to the church because I don’t like its leadership.

2. Euphemistic labeling--using a mild term to hide the actual harmfulness. "I took it" or "sort of borrowed" instead of stole. "I messed them up a little" instead of brutally assaulted. "I didn't tell him/her everything" instead of lied. "We have to take care of our own country first" instead of disregarding others' needs. "Freedom" is often a handy justification for doing whatever you want to do. A big one today is “God wouldn’t really care if I do this.”

3. Looking good by comparison--"I didn't cheat nearly as much as John/Mary did." "A lot of millionaires don't pay any taxes." "The rich in India don't give to their own poor, so why should I?" I’m a good catholic, I don’t go to church, but I’m better than those Catholics who go to church and are hypocrites.

4. They told me to do it--"They talked me into going with them." "I am told what sales pitch to make, don't blame me if it isn't all true." "He/she just kept pushing until I gave in." "I do whatever the law says to do; if I was supposed to do more they would tell me to." My parents said they don’t follow this teaching.

5. Denial of responsibility--"I just went along with the crowd." "I felt certain someone else would help her, there were people all around." "One person like me can't do anything about poverty." "I'm going to cheat on my taxes because of all the free-loaders on welfare." It’s not my responsibility to take care of the poor, they all

6. Denial of consequences--"I just dropped the bombs on the coordinates I was told and flew back to the base." "I only shoplift from big chain stores; they never miss it." "Paying farmers to not grow food doesn't really affect hunger." "TV just sensationalizes about hunger; there is enough for everyone to eat." I don’t need to go to confession, God forgives my sins.

7. Dehumanization--"There is nothing wrong with taking their land; they are just savages." "If they are that dumb, it's their fault they are taken advantage of." "Those godless Communists kill anybody in their way; we'd better get them before they knife us in the back." In the genocide they were able to kill friends and neighbors because they called them “cockroaches.”

8. You (the victim) caused me to do it--"If you hadn't been so nasty, I wouldn't have hit you." "You seemed like you were mad, so I went out with _____." "Those poor countries would take over this country if they could, I wouldn't give them a damned cent!" "The poor cause their own problems." This one is often used by people who have raped and murdered. Kids often say this one “He hit me first!”

Do any of these seem familiar to you? The truth is we have a whole wide variety of ways to try to rationalize our guilt. But we have only one way to get rid of it.

Psalm 32

I acknowledged my sin to you,

my guilt I covered not.

I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”

and you took away the guilt of my sin.

We never have to rationalize with God. We never have to hide our guilt.

The only real way to get rid of guilt is to take it to God. Acknowledge it to him personally in prayer, do an examination of conscience every night before you go to bed and acknowledge the times when you messed up that day, do it at the beginning of mass when we celebrate the penitential right and when we call to mind our sins and plead “Lord, Have Mercy.” Stop right now at this moment… REALLY STOP RIGHT NOW AND CONFESS YOUR FAULTS TO THE LORD… get it out, name your sin, open up your guilt to God, and let him take it. And the greatest most effective way that we have of relieving our guilt is in the sacrament of confession. Go confess your sins to the priest who stands in the person of Jesus, get it out, say them out loud and hear the words that Jesus speaks to you… “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Rationalizing will never free us from our guilt. The truth is if we all probably are guilty of something. The only way of getting rid of guilt is acknowledging our sins… as we hear the psalmist say: “I confess my faults to the Lord,” and you took away the guilt of my sins.

We never have to rationalize with God. We never have to hide our guilt.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this homily. It moved me to tears. I hope others who read this will be eager to return to the confessional and in the meantime, might join in weeping to our Lord for their sins, also. It is good.
    Yours in Christ,


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