Feelings of guilt, according to the prevailing psychiatric understanding, stem from the parental and cultural conditioning of the child. They emerge below the conscious level but color all relations with other people and inhibit creativity in learning and work. The anxiety that is a part of the guilt problem drives the person to certain patterns of unconsciously motivated behavior in his desire to reduce or remove his dis-ease. The theological and biblical approach sees guilt as arising from man’s alienation from and rebellion against God. This basic alienation leads also to alienation between people.
The minister may want to bring psychological and biblical insights into a practical synthesis as he counsels the guilt-ridden. He operates from the assumption that feelings of guilt always involve more than anxiety over one’s inability to meet the demands of parents or society; they are related also to the fundamental need to be reconciled to God as the ground of a satisfactory relation to others.
“Sin” is now an unfamiliar word in the experience of most people. The value confusion introduced by the moral experimentation of the situational ethicists has, nevertheless, heightened the real guilt and anxiety problems in our society. Every university campus counselor knows about the increasing incidence of student suicides. The goal of the minister is not merely to eliminate the disabling symptoms of guilt but also to lead the person to find wholeness as a forgiven and cleansed person.
Consider the case of a church deacon of impeccable standing who, in a state of great agitation, rushed into the pastor’s office wringing his hands and saying repeatedly, “Why did I do it? I don’t know what made me do it.” During an argument at breakfast ...1
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