“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
—Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
Parenting, from conception throughout the entire process of journeying with our children, is a very emotional role. Parenting involves us in the full gamut of emotions; from ecstasy to agony and every shard and splinter of the shattered palate of affect between.
Even unemotional types are drawn in to bear their emotions as they parent (what parent has never become angry?). From emotions comes the fragility of sensitivity for having done wrong. There is no field of endeavour more laden with guilt than for thought of wrongdoing as a parent. If we are to be better parents, better and more functional carers, we need to address our guilt and have ways of debunking it.
This is where the Christian journey intersects with guilt in the mode of parenting to provide a way forward so we can become even better parents.
Central to the premise of Christianity is the concept of repentance. And repentance is not just about confession or ‘feeling guiltier’, but it is very much about 1) reparation of the relationship, and 2) reparation of the soul, so we can move forward in life.
Honouring Horrible Truths and Repentance
It is a fact that we all make mistakes, and some very horrible ones, as parents.
If we allow that fact to sink deeper into our consciousness, just now, and combine with it the idea that we are/were just trying to do our best, we imagine a renewed sense of hope even in the midst of the horrible truth—we could have done better; much better in certain cases.
Granted that we have made some horrible mistakes, some perhaps which have caused our children to struggle and suffer, we can still do something about it. But the first step is acknowledgement.
Most people who have been transgressed simply want to be acknowledged as having been transgressed. And in that mode of acknowledgement is the opportunity to convey how bad we really feel. This is the objective of guilt—to take us into repentance. Guilt has no further function than to take us to repentance—to make amends as/if best we can.
Now, Moving On
God blesses us in a wonderful way when we have truly repented—in this case by acknowledging our wrongdoing and making amends the best we can.
We sense the burden has lifted from our shoulders. There is a new spring in our step. We enter each bright new day with a pinging hope. There is about us a sense of delimitation. We feel capable and competent. Our confidence returns.
Once guilt has been dealt with we can move on into the broader scope of life in order to see life as God wants us to see it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.