Will Rogers once remarked, that he had lived through two eras of American History: The passing of the buffalo and the passing of the buck! We may not be old enough to know about the passing of the buffalo, but we all know about the “passing of the buck”; we have had it happen to us and we have all done it. But what is not often discussed, is that those who try to pass the buck, those who resist owning up to their problems and blame others, frequently have the greatest difficulty in dealing with their own personal guilt.
As the old saying goes, “what doesn’t rub off, sticks more deeply”; so it is with guilt.
Guilt that isn’t dealt with immediately, that remains unresolved, becomes increasingly difficult to honestly and openly deal with and heal. Guilt cannot be “left to heal”, because it will not heal on its own, and time will not heal it. Guilt left alone, may lead an individual to lash out at others, and/or to punish or harm him or herself. Unresolved guilt reveals itself in a number of different serious pathological and psychological manifestations. Let’s deal with just three of them here.
Unresolved guilt often causes depression. This depression, if not treated, can often lead to despair; this despair to apathy. Unresolved guilt may not only lead to depression but also to an overall feeling of absolute and utter worthlessness that may take years to adequately deal with and take a lot of outside help.
There are millions of people going to doctors today taking prescriptions that deaden the senses, which are “mental pain relievers” that take the edge off, while they describe what they are feeling. As patients, these people may talk about the stressors in their life, and the problems that they are facing, but what the doctors are waiting for are the underlying causes to come out. When these underlying causes for their depression finally do surface, they almost always have to do with guilt.
When I was young, I had a professor in college who believed that, guilt produced far more good deeds in this world than “love” ever did. Wow, that took me a while to let sink in. I had never thought of guilt of being a producer of “good deeds”, but the older I get the more I realize that it is true. Men generally tend to learn quickly when to bring that “I messed-up bouquet” home to his wife. But no gender has the monopoly on guilt; missed appointments, Children, broken homes, illicit relationships all have produced a well spring of funds for the toy industry, auto industry, electronics, etc. I have actually known single parents who earned no more 50K a year, spending fifteen thousand dollars at Christmas on their only child, and feel bad that they could not have spent more! That is guilt… and they admit it! But good deeds have never atone for our actions, and they have never balance the books.
Turning Away From God
While doctors will tell you that many of the physical illnesses are caused by suppressed guilt, pastors will tell you that suppressed guilt is often the culprit for many spiritual illnesses, as well. Dr. Erwin Lutzer writes, “that perhaps the most widespread cause of doubt is guilt.” Guilt causes us to lose faith in God.
“Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God”
— 1John 3:21.
But that is what happens when we suffer with guilt; our conscience does condemn us! A young man struggling and losing the battle with internet pornography will back away from his faith in God. A young woman struggling with impure thoughts or illicit relationships will loosen her faith and trust in God. The struggle may be intense, but in the long run, any person who is holding on to sin in their lives, not relinquishing it, not confessing it, attempting to live a plural life, will find that their relationship with God will have become a slippery slope leading downward. They will either have to change their god, or change themselves, because they will become increasingly torn inside.