“As He passed along, He noticed a man blind from his birth. His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”
John 9: 1, 2
“The Guilt Problem”
Guilt causes us to blame ourselves or others.
“Blame” – To hold something or someone at fault.
“The business of finding fault is very easy, and that of doing better very difficult.”
Francois de Sales
I’m certain all of us can think back to times in our lives when something occurred and we moved quickly to point the finger of blame.
My husband Jim, told me about a time when as a youngster, he wanted to get back at his older siblings. Having two older sisters and an older brother, Jim found himself, on more than one occasion, being teased or made fun of as the “baby” of the family.
So one day, Jim went around the house and in tiny letters he wrote on some of his mother’s lamp shades. “Rey did this” using his brother’s name hoping to incriminate a guiltless party. There was only one BIG problem. Jim’s mom, an extremely perceptive lady, immediately recognized the tiny letters as Jim’s handwriting. She knew who was to blame. As you might have figured out, the guilty party was identified and punished, immediately!
As most people have found out in their lives, there is an appropriate role for the emotion of guilt when it functions as a catalyst to help us recognize when we have hurt someone or ourselves. But false guilt – the sense that keeps us buried under a burden of failure as we constantly blame ourselves for perceived or actual failures – can cause us to lose all our self-worth. Once we lose sight of the value God has placed on us, unfortunately, we often begin to place less value on those around us and we start blaming them too for all kinds of things – even our own failures.
In these instructive words, George S. Johnson explains how guilt can function as a blessing and curse in our lives, especially if we allow the guilt “blame game” to run afoul in our lives:
“Genuine guilt is an arousal of the heart,
an alarm that warns us of a wound for
which we are responsible.
Such a guilt is a gift, a gift that alerts us
to an injured relationship – with a friend,
with God, with our own best hopes and
deepest values. False guilt lures us from
a focus on what we have done to an
absorption with how bad we are. The
mood moves from ‘I have failed here’ to
‘I am a failure.’ In this maelstrom of
defeat, I lose sight of the particular
behavior that I can and should change,
I even lose sight of the relationship
that I have injured. Increasingly, the
focus is on my—my wretchedness,
my failure, my pain…I give this
disruptive mood power over me. The
gift of guilt becomes a curse, and
reconciliation escapes me.”
If we allow the sword of guilt to pierce our lives, we may find that soon our ability to recognize and correct the errors in our own lives is replaced by a feeling of desperation at our own failures. Then all we do is blame ourselves and everyone else. Blame, which was inflamed by guilt, takes control of our lives.
Jesus recognized this fact and so, in very practical terms, during His ministry on this earth, He directly took on the problem of guilt and blame especially as it related to the religious teachings at that time.
If we go back in history, the prevailing belief at the time of Jesus was that illness was brought on by sin – or more specifically – a sinful life. This is the reason we find Jesus’ disciples coming to Him after seeing a blind man and asking Him, “who sinned, this man or his parents?” I am certain they expected Jesus to point the finger at one or the other, but He did not. In fact, the only point Jesus made in His explanation was that this man’s disability was God’s opportunity to use His power to help and heal the hurting.
Understanding how easy it is to look at the unexplainable and pass judgment, Jesus instructed all of His followers with these words: “Do not judge or condemn others, so that you may not be judged and condemned yourselves” (Matthew 7:1, Amplified Bible). But then Jesus went on to further explain what He meant with this descriptive portrayal: “Why do you stare from without at the very small particle in another’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). When we allow ourselves to jump into the finger-pointing game of blaming, Jesus says, “Look out!” As Pastor Jean Clift wrote in a prayer, “O God of grace, give us your grace that we may not savor the evil in others in order to disguise the evil in ourselves.”
May we not fall prey to the destructive effects of false guilt by blaming ourselves and others for the faults in our lives. Instead, may we accept the promise of Jesus when He says to you and me: “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the person (that’s you and me!) whose ears are open to My words (who listens to My message) and believes and trusts in and clings to and relies on Him who sent Me has (possesses now) eternal life. (She) does not come into judgment, and will not come under condemnation. (She) has passed from death to life.” (John 5: 24, Amplified).
“Strength of the weary,
I argue with myself.
It was my fault,
no, I’m not to blame.
Yes, I am.
I could have done this.
I should have done that.
Maybe I just didn’t try
And I sigh.
I can’t relive the past,
nor find a simple route
through the maze,
as if there is an easy
answer to what happens.
When I’m tired or prone to doubt
I blame myself—
the easy way out.
It is self recrimination,
and it keeps me from going on.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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