Sunday, February 18, 2018

Guilt Unto Repentance

A scripture that has always stood out to me is Alma 42:29 where Alma the younger is talking with his "problem" child Corianton and is trying to help him understand the wrongs of his ways.  Corianton though has some large theological questions and Alma spends a lot of his time talking through the doctrine Corianton does not understand.  At the end of it all he says:

And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.
This has always stood out to me because of how different his advice is then our society has it.  Our society tends towards two directions, one trying to make the person feel absolutely awful for their actions so much that the pain forces them almost without agency to never to do that thing again.  The other is to be so gentle as to try to take away all guilt.  Here Alma is explicit though, to only let sins trouble with that trouble which shall bring repentance.

I have been doing a lot of research lately (which is going to come up in future posts I promise) about how people respond to guilt.  The most bizarre thing I have found is that many resolutions to guilt actually cause larger problems than the original source of the guilt.  The body's response to guilt is to want to feel better, and the physical response may not care how.  We can justify away our actions, selectively forget the bad, use unfair comparisons to show that we are at least better than someone else, or so many other things.  However, this leads us to establish unhealthy patterns.  If we justify once, we probably will justify again.

Staying in guilt also tears down our will power.  Study has shown time and time again that we only have so much moral stamina, and as it deplinishes we are much more likely to engage in unethical behavior.  This is true independent of the moral Goliath you may be (except for Christ feeling our pain and guilt in Gethsemane).  So like a small stone took down Goliath because it led to David being able to taking Goliath's own sword and finishing him, a small amount of guilt may leave us defenseless to much larger issues.

There is so much more to say on this topic, and it will come, but I will leave this here for now.  I hope we all remember to only feel guilt unto repentance and to let the Savior's loving embrace into our lives.  Independent of your wrong or whatever questions on doctrine you may have like Corianton did, let it only trouble you in order to become a better person.

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