Bonhoeffer said, “Guilt is an idol.” I have been thinking today about the role of guilt in our faith…or at least the role we have given guilt in our faith. I find myself essentially worshipping and lifting up guilt in my life quite a bit. Bonhoeffer has a fantastic grasp on the role we often give to guilt and shame.
Self-rejection and hatred are far too present in the Christian faith. It was never intended to be this way. We too often take our own self-hatred and project it onto God, and that does not match up. We too often assume that God feels the same way about us that we fee about ourselves. This is impossible, of course, unless we are able to love ourselves with relentlessly tender and accepting love.
We have to destroy the idol of guilt and begin to accept ourselves as we really are. We are all wounded people, and need to learn to accept that. We, instead, either lacerate ourselves with guilt and shame, or we hide our wounds with pretty faces and admirable manufactured presentations of ourselves. We hide behind those masks and never allow ourselves to be known as we are. Sadly, I often hide for so long behind some masks that I believe they are real; I forget my real self.
Guilt remains an idol because my unwillingness to reveal myself as I am, wounds and all, is an unwillingness to accept myself. That unwillingness to accept myself is my unwillingness to accept that God truly is a loving God. I may accept it in my head while there remains a great chasm between my head and my heart.
How willing am I to be wounded; to accept that I am wounded? Without being immobilized by guilt?
How long will I worship the idol of guilt?