Guilt is a funny thing. It isn’t just a simple emotion, coming and going with the tides. Guilt stalks the innocents in daylight and darkness. It’s a cunning creature, able to catch its prey when it is least expected, changing behavior without fully striking, and touching the course of history with an ease which brings jealousy to the arrogant.
As I walk the streets of New York, ride its subways, reflecting, there is an obvious conclusion – Guilt is a major player. Working together with sympathy, donations flow to the otherwise music-less players in the subway. What should be viewed as noise and a cry for help is ignored by those facing their own demons. Money flows and life continues on as it was, complemented by a temporary feeling of satisfaction.
I’m not trying to be cynical or dismiss the impact of giving to those in need. As I watch the reaction of people in a large community to each other, it seems as if guilt plays a far bigger role than it deserves. Some react to the blight of others, driven or triggered by guilt. Some push the limits of behavior and decorum, simply running from yesterday’s guilt. There are even those who deny, fight, and rally against the best of human values, as if they are the enemy.
Guilt has a useful purpose, but it is very, very limited. In times of reflection, remember the values and priorities you and I hold dear. In times of learning, remember the lessons life has taught you, often at great cost.
Don’t get caught in paying a price for those experiences! Head the words of yesterday which apply as much to the day we both face; “‘Why this frenzy of sacrifices?’ God's asking. ‘Don't you think I've had my fill of burnt sacrifices, rams and plump grain-fed calves? Don't you think I've had my fill of blood from bulls, lambs, and goats?’” (Isaiah 1.11)
Most of all; when you remember, remember beauty and love. They are signs of God’s involvement in your life and mine. Follow them.
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