Katherine Ann Power is an American ex-convict and long-time fugitive, who along with her fellow student and accomplice Susan Edith Saxe, was placed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Fugitives list back in 1970. The two participated in robberies at several banks and they shot and killed a Boston police Officer. Katherine Power remained at large for 23 years. Then in September 1993 she gave herself up. (Source Wikipedia)
She was in the getaway car and had not shot the policeman but said in court: “His death was shocking to me, and I have had to examine my conscience and accept any responsibility I have for the event that led to it.” Katherine Power was sentenced to 8-12 years in prison for the bank robbery. This is a true story.
I have heard of other stories similar to that—like the bank robber who turned himself into police confessing to a crime he committed 20 years before. Why would he voluntarily surrender to authorities when he may never be found out? He said, “I just could not live with the guilt any more”.
What is Guilt?
No one likes to feel guilty. But what exactly is guilt? Microsoft’s Encarta says that guilt is an awareness of having done wrong or committed a crime, accompanied by feelings of shame and regret. Since all of us have either done wrong things or failed to do right things, we have all experienced guilt.
In an article about guilt the medical website WebMD.com says:
Does your guilty conscience follow your every move, making you wonder how you could have done something more or better—for your partner, your kids, your community, or your career? Where does such crippling guilt come from? What toll does it take on you? And, most importantly, how can you shake it? Keep reading to find out. And don’t feel too guilty about taking the time for yourself to do so.
Clearly, the spectrum of guilt that burdens folks runs the gamut. “Some people don’t have the positive guilt that keeps you on the straight and narrow. Others have guilt that eats away at their soul; they rarely have a moment of peace,” says Michael McKee, PhD, vice chairman of The Cleveland Clinic’s psychiatry and psychology department.
A Christian blogger says: “Guilt is a universal experience. Everybody at some time or other has had the bad feeling of not doing what he ought to have done.” The failure to do what we ought to have done we call guilt. And the bad feelings that often accompany it we call guilt feelings or a bad conscience.
We see the results of it in so many areas of life. People suffering from low-self-esteem, who think that they’re failures, who feel guilty because they can’t do what others expect of them, or what they expect of themselves:
- People who are workaholics as they try to make up for their shortcomings.
- People who suffer from stress-related illnesses.
- People who are perfectionists.
- Others who give up and simply fall into self-indulgence rather than fight it—a spiral.
I read somewhere recently a psychologist saying that most of his patients could be cured if he could convince them that the guilt they felt wasn’t real. So we live in a world where one of the greatest problems, one of the most powerful forces we feel, is guilt.
You can devise all kinds of ways to try to get rid of your guilty feelings. But your guilt is not just a feeling or a personal problem—it really has to do with your relationship with God. How you deal with your guilt depends on how you view God and what place he has in your life.
Ways We Try to Deal With Guilt
Denying your guilt
One popular way of dealing with guilt is to simply deny you have done anything wrong! The reasoning goes like this, I only feel guilty because I am living under standards passed down by an older generation who told me that certain things were right and wrong. To stop feeling guilty, I need to throw off those antiquated standards and live by my own standards.
According to this way of thinking, if you feel guilty for sleeping with your boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s because your mother taught you that premarital sex was wrong. So if you can convince yourself that premarital sex is not really wrong, your guilty feelings will disappear.
(Read Living with Guilt – Part 2)