The Seeker of Peace


Guilt vs. Blame
October 10, 2008, 10:22 am
Filed under: Forgiveness | Tags: , ,

Yesterday was Yom Kippur. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking about guilt.

I realized, even more deeply than when I wrote yesterday’s post, that an absence of guilt is essential for forgiving others. I thought of the story from John 7:53 of the adulteress. Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I previously thought this was a misguided message that nobody’s perfect, and only someone who is perfect could dispense justice. But now I have a much more profound understanding of the text.

Jesus could say this with confidence, because a person without sin wouldn’t cast the first stone. We judge and blame to justify or minimize our own guilt. When we are free from guilt, we no longer have any reason to judge others. Thus, the story tells us not that nobody’s perfect, but rather that by shedding our guilt we can become perfectly forgiving.

The fact that the story is missing from many first millennium bibles reinforces my conviction that the story has this non-dualistic meaning. Many branches of Christianity would find anathematic the suggestion that people should stop feeling guilt.

This understanding has also given me new insight into Byron Katie’s The Work. I see now a perfect symmetry between guilt and blame. To cure the one, we need to forgive ourselves, to cure the other, we need to forgive others. The missing piece of the puzzle for me is that the forgiveness is all the same. We can’t stop judging others without being willing to stop judging ourselves, and vice versa.

Up until now, I’ve been working on forgiving others and forgiving myself as if they were two different things. In a way, it’s a huge relief to realize that they’re the same, and I have one less thing to work on.

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