What I Write About

I write about the infinite number of intersections between every day life and the good news of the God who has come to get us.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

What's Your Strategy?

I spoke on Thursday night about freedom from shame and guilt. Here's a little bit of how it went down:

There are a couple of things that we can say almost universally about shame and guilt:

1. Almost everyone struggles with it. Even those who don't seem to have any huge story of something catastrophic that they've done. Shame and guilt are in operation in our lives regardless of our performance--no matter how "good" or "bad" you've been, there's this free-floating shame and guilt in our souls that seems to attach to whatever raw material is available.

2. Because this is so, and because the voices of shame and guilt echo so loudly in our souls, almost all of us have a coping strategy of some sort. That is, almost all of us have some way that we try to put as much distance between us and the things that we're so ashamed of in our past.

What's your strategy?

1. Religious legalism. Some of us try to do as much religious stuff as possible in order to quiet the voices of shame and guilt in our lives. Some of you are leaders in InterVarsity and you serve like crazy. But it's not really out of love. It's really just an attempt at quieting the voices of shame and guilt.

2. Hedonism; that is, the obsessive pursuit of selfish pleasures no matter the cost to yourself or others around you. If I put enough drinks or sexual experiences or acid trips or pot-highs between me and the stuff from my past that haunts me, maybe that will finally help me to break free.

There's actually not much difference between these two. The first looks pious, the second looks cool, but it's really just the same journey running side by side. And neither of them actually works.

3. Moralism. Some folks don't want anything to do with religious stuff. They figure if they're just good enough, do enough good things, that'll put the distance and space they need between them and their guilt and shame.

4. Activism. UNC is a campus full of activists. But some of them are motivated by the deep hope that if they can make something right in the world out there, then maybe for once it'll be alright in their own heart and mind.

5. Workaholism. Some of you spend most of your lives in the library. And you think that if maybe you get the grade, make it to law school or med school, maybe then you'll be free from the voices in your head that tell you you're a failure, or your work yourself out of the pit of guilt that you feel like you're buried in.

All of us have guilt and shame operative in our lives. And all of us have different strategies to try to cope with it. What's yours?

4 comments:

Bonnie said...

Hmmm ... something to think about.

I'm so "not there" yet but God's really been teaching me about His grace. Getting a hold of that would go a long way towards helping us deal with guilt ! I know I have plenty in my past to be ashamed of! BUT ... God has forgiven me for those things. And He doesn't even remember them ! I do ... but I've heard it said recently that the reason God doesn't wipe our memory of our sins, like He wipes His own of them, is so that we learn from them and REMEMBER them next time we think about doing the same or a similar thing. I thought that was an interesting point of view.

B-U-R-L-Y said...

Aren't 1 & 3 the same?

Alex said...

nice pic, bonnie! i'll talk more about memory next post--i think that's a pretty crucial piece of this.

burly, i think the difference is that one is religious and the other is adamantly secular. the way it functions looks similar, but there are plenty of bumper stickers out there that say "my religion is human kindness." those are folks who are trying hard to shake shame and guilt without the trappings of "G/god." I was trying to talk to folks in my large group who might be in the room (visiting or whatever) who have that outlook. Really, neither one works and functionally they look somewhat similar.

B-U-R-L-Y said...

True.