I grew up in the New York City area on the “Joisey” side, where they pour guilt into the drinking water. If you were Italian, you had guilt.
I had lunch with my good friend Bob a few years ago. Bob is very Italian. As we ate together, we began to discuss where we grew up. I shared how I flew model airplanes where the MetLife stadium is in the Jersey meadowlands. I used to joke that the model airplane field that later became the meadowlands sports complex was where the body of Jimmy Hoffa was buried. I’ve repeated that story many times over the years until two guys with black shirts and black ties came and visited my office. They didn’t think it was very funny. I quickly agreed.
Bob mentioned he grew up in Connecticut just outside New York. The area was known as the tri-state area – New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, “How did you deal with the guilt?” We laughed. We shared the same water system. It was real. We both had hardcore Italian parents who were trained by their immigrant parents that guilt was a great way to raise your kids. We obeyed (or didn’t get caught) because we were too scared to do anything wrong.
That evening my entire family, meaning my wife, three children and my mother, was gathered around the dinner table. I told them about lunch with Bob and his comment: “How did you deal with the guilt?” My mother looked at the five of us and said, “What guilt?” I couldn’t believe she uttered those words. My mother was and still is the queen of guilt. My son got up from the table and wrote in his journal my mother’s line, “What guilt?” My mother continued to eat as if she knew nothing about pouring guilt into our
Guilt – it’s a great form of manipulation. You get the desired behavior, but it’s all external, not internal. The person obeys out of fear of punishment or to please the individual that is making the demand on them. Either way, guilt does not change the heart, and it does not change someone’s character; it changes behavior. Remove the guilt and the behavior resorts back to what it wants to
Does God release us of our guilt? I was teaching a Bible study on the first eight chapters of the book of Romans this fall. My resource was a book published in the late 1960s by Fritz Ridenhour entitled, “How to be a Christian without being religious.” The premise is that it is not about my performance that brings me into a right relationship with God. It is the cross and Jesus’s blood that met the payment for my sins.
What intrigued me is that Fritz said God not only removes the penalty of our sins, He also removes my guilt. God does not “wag” his finger at me reminding me how badly I have disappointed him or how badly I messed up. I have had people in my life do that – but God doesn’t do that.
Sins can be omission (what I don’t do) or commission (what I do). Both have damaging effects.
Fritz was right. If I carry that guilt, I am saying Jesus’ death on the cross and the blood He shed is insufficient to meet the payment for my sins. By taking away my guilt, I am free. Free from the penalty of sin, but also free from the guilt of what I did (or failed to
I’ll have to have lunch with Bob again – it’s been too many years. Yes, we both drank the water of that New York tri-state area. Today, we’re living in the South where they don’t put that into the reservoir.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He is available to speak to your group. Go to www.charlotteres cuemission.org and go to contact us then ask for Pam.