The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shame on you! (Guilty as charged.)

I'm a frequent defender of guilt and shame. I know they've played a key role in my own reformation. However, I recently set out to write a little defense and I found that it was all superfluous. The goodness of (ordinate) guilt and shame can be understood with a simple exercise: imagine the history of this world with all guilt and shame removed. If you have any power of imagination you'll shudder at the thought.


At Thursday, April 20, 2006 10:11:00 AM, Anonymous Mike said...


How does the thought experiment go? Imagine how the world would have been had no one experienced guilt/shame? I think on balance you're probably right that it would not have been on balance good. But, on the other hand, the closest world in which that is true might be one in which no does anything worthy of those responses. I take it that that would be good.
But those who object to the prevalence of these emotions might be asking how it *might* have been had there been no guilt/shame. That's more difficult to imagine, I think, and not clearly on balance bad. It might have been true, for instance, that immorality was intrinsically less appealing. Or it might have been that we were morally motivated in less punishing ways. That seems on balance better.
But I'm guessing that your reply would be that such worlds are too distant to matter much. Maybe that's what's in dispute: how distant the worlds are in which we are motivated in less punishing ways.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

You got the idea just right. When I ostended "this world" I intended to hold the people fixed.

If very many people are like me, then a life unconstrained by guilt and shame spells trouble.

At Sunday, May 21, 2006 4:36:00 PM, Blogger Christine Ansorge said...

I am overconstrained by false guilt and false shame. Some of us obey out of the joy of obeying, and a lot of crap gets dumped on us until we outgrow guilt and shame. It helps to have met the Good Shepherd as toddler. Early spiritual formation is important, but shame and guilt are only tutors. I believe you must eventually outgrow them. I wrote about reading your own shit, and in a sense that's what I was arguing for. When something is forgiven, it is forgiven. Imperfect is all we have; it has to be enough. Shame and guilt are the training wheels of the soul. A keen love of the Savior is what really balances the bike.

At Sunday, May 21, 2006 4:45:00 PM, Blogger Trent_Dougherty said...

C, I can agree with all that. You're eschatological (and scatological) point is perfectly consistent with my point about where we are: relying on training wheels.


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