Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Can Guilt Be Good?

Never mind John Wesley's admonition to serve with all due diligence not for wrath's but for conscience's sake. Guilt works, and if it gets the job done, then why not? After all, everyone is motivated differently, and if it's guilt with a dash of shame that keeps me doing my job well, then there has to be some good in it.

Fear of losing his job is what kept Peter Gibbons around in the cult movie Office Space. Even he admitted to the "Bobs" that people will only work hard enough not to get fired. It only goes so far, guilt.

Guilt is tricky because if that's your center, then how do you keep from becoming obsessive and hyper-critical of first yourself and then others. And the nature of guilt is that you will never ever do enough and be enough to please yourself. Assuaging your guilt, whatever ministry offered, quickly becomes about you. My feeling better about myself then becomes the motivation for ministry.

We all cling to various illusions. The question of guilt's saving virtue can be answered by the inner experience of it and whether it is more draining in the long run. Do we really need it in order to serve faithfully from a full cup of God's love and grace in Jesus? When I think of an alternative center of ministry, it would be self- respect, not the self-contempt that guilt breeds.

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