As Guilty As It Gets - Part 1
Developing Functional Guilt Over “Who We Are” As Persons
Johnny Cash once did an album entitled American Recordings. Featured on the album cover is a photo of Johnny standing between two dogs. One dog is black with a white stripe. The other dog is white with a black stripe. The two dogs are meant to say something about the singer. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Cash explains what the two dogs mean: “Their names are Sin and Redemption. Sin is the black one with the white stripe; Redemption is the white one with the black stripe. That’s kind of the theme of that album, and for me, too. When I was really bad, I was not all bad. When I was trying to be good, I could never be all good. There would be that black streak going through.” No one is all bad. No one is all good. We are all imperfect sinners. Some are unredeemed sinners with a streak of good while others are redeemed sinners with a streak of guilt. That’s as guilty as it gets.
When Guilt Is A Good Motivator To Better Oneself
For those sinners who have been redeemed, have you ever noticed what a good motivator guilt is? I’ve often wondered how much Christian service and activity would remain if the guilt that often fuels it were eliminated. How many people would sit in our sanctuary on Sunday—in fact, how many church programs would continue to function—if guilt, as a motivating factor, were no longer available?
Many men would love to lead the life of Sean Connery. Tall, handsome, and dashing, Connery played the glamorous role of James Bond in action films. Connery travels the world to shoot movies in places as exotic as equatorial Africa or the mysterious Orient. Yet when asked in an interview why, at age sixty-two, why he continues to act, Connery gave this surprising reply, “Because I get the opportunity to be somebody better and more interesting than I am.”
Many people feel like Connery. Their lives aren’t all that they could be. They aren’t as good as they should be. Something is missing that even glamorous acting roles cannot fulfill. People in general are found guilty because they aren’t as good as they should be. This is the kind of guilt that drives us to make up for what’s missing in our lives. Now this guilt we feel because of “who we are” is not simply the result of countless negative messages we receive from our world over the years. Rather, it is an essential tool in the sinful effort of men and women to make life work and overcome a poor self-image.
In spite of our desperate need, we do not seek God, and this affects the kind of image we begin to form of ourselves. We learn to reduce the pain that comes from wanting what other people aren’t offering by calling our longing, thirsty, passionate heart “the problem.” We begin to hate the fact that we want what others could provide because wanting it only makes its absence that much more painful. As a result, we develop what is called “functional guilt”—guilt over “who we are” as persons. Functional guilt is very different from true moral guilt, which is a result of our refusal to listen to God and go His way.
When Giving Who You Are Blows Up In Your Face
How does a poor self-image work for me? When I was around ten years old, the sixth grade promised to be an exciting challenge to me. I just graduated from the fifth grade and stepped into the world of middle school. I hoped to do well in all my subjects especially music. News traveled fast that the sixth grade music teacher was a strict and demanding teacher—a Russian disciplinarian of the first order. It was in her class that I was determined to make a good first impression. I remember carefully wrapping my music book the night before to satisfy her expectations. I covered by bases to get off on the right foot.
The first day of school was well on its way and Music Class was just around the corner. As we lined up outside the door, I peered through the window and caught a glimpse of ‘the dreaded disciplinarian.’ It was not a pleasant sight. Sitting behind a table sat a very disturbed woman. We walked passed her and she just sat there behind her piano like a predator ready to stalk the student prey. You could almost hear the theme song of the movie Jaws rumbling in the background. Can you hear it? Listen…Dum dum. Dum dum dum… Sporting heavy black plastic glasses with its corners pointing skyward, her head remained hidden beneath waves of song sheets. She didn’t seem the least bit interested in her first music class of the school year. Nevertheless, I gave her the benefit of the doubt saying to myself, “She can’t be as bad as her former students made her out to be.”
After a brief introduction, she gave us specific instructions as to how we were to conduct ourselves in her class. How we were to raise our hands before asking a question, how we were to address her courteously at all times, where we were to sit in her class according to our voice, how we were to stand before her piano when called to sing a solo, when we could go to the bathroom, how we should dress and comb our hair, how we were to properly hold up our music books, how many songs we would be memorizing by heart. I could go on. And for the moment it dawned on me, “I wasn’t a student, I was a slave, sentenced to do hard time in this Russian concentration camp of a classroom!”
Our music teacher spared us no time to think about her lengthy list rules and regulations. Like clockwork, she immediately calls out the page number of our first song. As dyslexic as I was, I panicked. I just thumbed through my music book as fast as I could hoping that she wouldn’t hear me shuffling back and forth without a clue as to what page I should be in. Then I stopped thumbing through my pages because I realized that everyone around me didn’t move a muscle. I looked up. To my horror, there aimed straight at me, was a Russian Scud Missile ready to blast off. In the heat of the moment, this loose cannon grabbed my carefully wrapped music book, cracked it open to the page, and then tossed it back on my lap!
Meanwhile, the entire class was trembling on the sidelines. Badly shaken, I held up my music book as best as I knew how, but dropped it. My classmates held their breath and braced themselves for lift off. Help! We have a problem! The Russian Scud Missile, like a bat out of hell, ignited and exploded all over me. From behind her piano, she hurled her scathing insults. Screaming at the top of her lungs, “You bumbling idiot! What do you think your doing? Didn’t you listen to my instructions? You can’t do anything right!” She grabbed me out of my chair and stood me in front of the class. I was made an unwilling guinea pig—a lab rat lesson in how a music student should turn the pages and hold up his or her book. Thumbs in front to hold down the pages, four fingers in back to support the book. By the way, student harassment was unheard of in those days. We had no rights. I can still see the shock scribbled on the faces of my classmates. They were probably thinking, “When will our turn come to be publicly humiliated by this tyrant?” I was sick to my stomach—a spectacle of shame for all to see. Thank God the school bell saved me from this horrific ordeal.
Continued on Part 2 http://hubpages.com/hub/As-Guilty-As-It-Gets---Part-2
Copyright 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
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