Guilt Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 371 quotes )
Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one's own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
Guilt and misery shrink, by a natural instinct, from public notice: they court privacy and solitude: and even in their choice of a grave will sometimes sequester themselves from the general population of the churchyard, as if declining to claim fellowship with the great family of man; thus, in a symbolic language universally understood, seeking (in the affecting language of Mr. Wordsworth)
Under conditions of a truly human existence, the difference between succumbing to disease at the age of ten, thirty, fifty, or seventy, and dying a "natural" death after a fulfilled life, may well be a difference worth fighting for with all instinctual energy. Not those who die, but those who die before they must and want to die, those who die in agony and pain, are the great indictment against civilization. They also testify to the unredeemable guilt of mankind. Their death arouses the painful awareness that it was unnecessary, that it could be otherwise. It takes all the institutions and values of a repressive order to pacify the bad conscience of this guilt. Once again, the deep connection between the death instinct and the sense of guilt becomes apparent. The silent "professional agreement" with the fact of death and disease is perhaps one of the most widespread expressions of the death instinct -- or, rather, of its social usefulness. In a repressive civilization, death itself becomes an instrument of repression. Whether death is feared as constant threat, or glorified as supreme sacrifice, or accepted as fate, the education for consent to death introduces an element of surrender into life from the beginning -- surrender and submission. It stifles "utopian" efforts. The powers that be have a deep affinity to death; death is a token of unfreedom, of defeat. Theology and philosophy today compete with each other in celebrating death as an existential category: perverting a biological fact into an ontological essence, they bestow transcendental blessing on the guilt of mankind which they help to perpetuate -- they betray the promise of utopia.
One of the less attractive aspects of human nature is our tendency to hate the people we haven't treated very well; it's much easier than accepting guilt. If we can convince ourselves that the people we betrayed or enslaved were subhuman monsters in the first place, then our guilt isn't nearly so black as we secretly know that it is. Humans are very, very good at shifting blame and avoiding guilt.
It's like this,' began the elder. 'All these sentences of hard labour in Siberian prisons, and formerly with flogging, too, do not reform anyone and, what's more, scarcely deter even one criminal, and, far from diminishing, the number of crimes are steadily increasing. You have to admit that. It therefore follows that society is not in the least protected, for though a harmful member is cut off automatically and exiled to some remote spot just to get rid of him, another criminal takes his place at once, and often, two, perhaps. If anything does protect society even today and indeed reforms the criminal himself and brings about his regeneration, it is, again, only the law of Christ, which reveals itself in the awareness of one's own consciousness. Only by recognizing his own guilt as a son of a Christian society, that is, of the Church, does the criminal recognize his guilt towards society itself, that is, towards the Church. The criminal today, therefore, is capable of recognizing his guilt only towards the Church, and not towards the State.
It is not any crime you have committed that infects your soul with permanent guilt, it is none of your failures, errors or flaws, but the blank-out by which you attempt to evade them - it is not any sort of Original Sin or unknown prenatal deficiency, but the knowledge and fact of your basic default, of suspending your mind, of refusing to think. Fear and guilt are your chronic emotions, they are real and you do deserve them, but they don't come from the superficial reasons you invent to disguise their cause, not from your "selfishness," weakness or ignorance, but from a real and basic threat to your existence; fear, because you have abandoned your weapon of survival, guilt, because you know you have done it volitionally.
But each one of us is guilty insofar as he remained inactive. The guilt of passivity is different. Impotence excuses; no moral law demands a spectacular death. Plato already deemed it a matter of course to go into hiding in desperate times of calamity, and to survive. But passivity knows itself morally guilty of every failure, every neglect to act whenever possible, to shield the imperiled, to relieve wrong, to countervail. Impotent submission always left a margin of activity which, though not without risk, could still be cautiously effective. Its anxious omission weighs upon the individual as moral guilt. Blindness for the misfortune of others, lack of imagination of the heart, inner differences toward the witnessed evil--that is moral guilt.
Very harmful effects can follow accepting the philosophy which denies personal guilt or sin and thereby makes everyone nice. By denying sin, the nice people make a cure impossible. Sin is most serious, and the tragedy is deepened by the denial that we are sinners…The really unforgiveable sin is the denial of sin, because, by its nature, there is now nothing to be forgiven. By refusing to admit to personal guilt, the nice people are made into scandalmongers, gossips, talebearers, and supercritics, for they must project their real if unrecognized guilt to others. This, again, gives them a new illusion of goodness: the increase of faultfinding is in direct ratio and proportion to the denial of sin.
But guilt is guilt. It doesn't go away. It can't be nullified. It can't even be fully understood, I'm certain - it's roots run too deep into private and long-standing karma. About the only thing that saves my neck when I get to feeling this way is that guilt is an imperfect form of knowledge. Just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean that it can't be used. The hard thing to do is to put it to practical use, before it gets around to paralyzing you.