Guilt Can Be Good

12 Mar

“A guilty suffering spirit is more open to grace than an apathetic or smug soul.”
~  Edna Hong

When I was in major seminary, we had a professor who, whenever a student apologized profusely, would say, “O, quit being so Irish!”  When he would get quizzical looks, he would expound upon his Irish heritage and how, as he was growing up, guilt was used as a tool to make him feel bad about his actions as well as himself.  He would try to get us to think about our guilt — was it good or bad.

He held that it was good guilt if it prompted us to think about what we had done and what we could do differently the next time.  It was good guilt if it led us to change our lives in some manner.  It was bad guilt, on the other hand, if it led us to become morose and hopeless.  It was bad guilt if it froze us in place rather than helped us change and move on.

“A guilty suffering spirit is more open to grace than an apathetic or smug soul.”  I think that Edna Hong would agree with my former professor.  The guilty suffering spirit of which she wrote is the kind of spirit that all of us are asked to embrace during Lent.  That kind of guilt is healthy.  It is an honest recognition that we have fallen short of our Maker’s expectations and that we need to do better in our daily lives.  It is also an admission that we cannot do it on our own, that we need God’s help

Having a guilty suffering spirit opens us up to the grace that comes from God.  God’s grace gives us the wherewithal to change, to make amends, to be more holy.  That grace also leads us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Sometimes, people stay away from the sacrament because they have bad guilt.  They allow their guilt to cloud their soul and keep them from God.  By going to confession, we find the graces we need to refrain from sin.

Let not guilt lead you away from the Lord.  Rather, let your guilt rise to the surface, inform you of the need to change, and give you the prodding that you need to accept God’s help to change.

FAITH ACTION: Make a thorough examination of conscience and then plan on going to confession soon so that you may better prepare for Easter.