Guilt usually starts at a young age. You don’t even know why you are feeling what you are feeling. Over time the sources and drivers for guilt change. The shift from hands in a cookie jar to being a victim of well intentioned parents to something extremely complex occurs without much if any thought or planning. Personally I think guilt is highly overrated and often stays in our lives well beyond its expiry date.
I never realized as a child that my parents carried more guilt than I. They like most still fought the demons given to them by their parents. For many of us these demons become so familiar with time that we often consider them to be a natural part of our identity, a piece of the mosaic we call family. However the additional piece that I have discovered as a parent is a sense of personal accountability for the impact of my actions, or lack of, in the lives of others. It is as if every parent knows that there is more they could have done for the kids, friends, spouses, extended family or even themselves “if only”.
The guilt only heightens when we realize as adults at what is at stake. When we see, put names in the place of countries, that “Egypt will be reduced to weeds in a vacant lot, Edom turned into barren badlands, all because of brutalities to the Judean people, the atrocities and murders of helpless innocents,” (Joel 3.19) and we are Judah, we feel guilty! Without piling on I would gently and compassionately suggest that for each there is a strong element of truth!
The good news this morning is that the game isn’t over. We can make a difference in the lives that we touch. Will we hurt others? Almost certainly. Can we erase pain? No. Can we give away something that is priceless, more than offsetting our actions of yesterday? Yes! We can reach out to others introduce them to a God of compassion, mercy, and love. It is the least we can do.