It was about 20 years ago when I heard this idea from Dr. Wapnick. He said that we are all conditioned by society, the church, and even by our families, to feel that we are sinful beings. Even the idea of original sin makes us believe that we are sinful to our very core. The fire breathing southern ministers of my youth poured it down on us each Sunday. There’s a very good reason for this conditioning, from society’s point of view; we’ll discuss it in a moment.
If I can be made to believe that I’m sinful just for showing up on the planet, it follows that I am also guilty. What other choice do I have? As my old friend Arno used to say, “As far as I know, I didn’t ask to be born.” But since I am here, he would remind me repeatedly, “I don’t have to apologize for the ground I stand on or the air I breathe.” I don’t believe we are inherently sinful, or guilty.
If I’m feeling guilty, either existentially as a function of who I am, or feeling guilt imposed from some outside force, I am less than whole, less than fully alive. It is easier to manipulate or have your way over someone who feels guilty. People heavily into guilt generally volunteer to punish themselves rather than face the wrath of someone or something unknown. We punish ourselves in many ways, do we not?
Fear rules the guilty mind. Conspiracies and threats come from every corner. Fearful people are more easily manipulated. Look at today’s political and economic situations. High level manipulation has raised the levels of fear, making for a more docile and pliable mass. We look for someone or something to help us feel safe from the fear we feel. This inevitably opens the door to hucksters of every stripe.
It’s true on the mass level and the individual; the more fearful I am, the more I seek safety in someone or something I feel might offer me protection, but always at a high price. Fundamentalism requires my free will. Security concerns have transformed police officers into paramilitary troops to insure those in power can continue to rule with fear.
The only person I need to convince of my innocence, rather than my guilt, is myself.* How would your life change if you no longer felt sinful and guilty for simply being human? It is the only way to break the chain of this unholy trinity of sin, guilt and fear.
*See Billy Joel perform “An Innocent Man” @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=exSD7rHVI4U