“My guilt overwhelms me – it is a burden too heavy to bear.”
Psalm 38 v 4
Recite this out loud:
We can sometimes feel a sense of guilt.
Is it a thing in-built,
A feeling of real guilt
Or just a guilty feeling?
Is the guilt the thing
Or is the thing the feeling?
Is it an independent thing
Not dependent on our feelings,
They themselves dependent
On a host of random things,
And some names we can’t forget,
Which people say, ‘life brings’,
Of which to be ashamed or to regret,
Or of which to boast
On a springboard of elation,
Or to sense an irritation,
Melting rarely to compassion,
Drowning sometimes in depression,
On occasion feeling passion
Even to the point of temper,
And the whole thing being tempered
Not surprisingly by alcohol (or music)
Or worse, a heady mixture of the two!
But, to unpick this ‘guilt’, to analyse,
Look with dissectors’ eyes;
Is it a fear that drives
This whirlpool which, once entered,
Sucks us into ever deeper confines
Ever darker, to its centre?
Or is it shame, which provides the motive force?
Is shame the driver of remorse?
Fear or shame, I ask the same—of what?
Embarrassment and pain of being found out?
All too often, yes, and not
Embarrassment and pain that we’ve dealt out.
But that’s not guilt, that’s only self-defence.
Guilt must recognise, a victim’s loss.
That’s real, beyond anything we feel;
It’s still there when we don’t give a toss.
So– our guilt is measured only by their cost?
But that can never be completely met
By us, who can’t completely ease their pain.
And supposing that were done, we’d still have yet
To deal with our disdain.
I somehow know there must be something more,
To empty out guilt’s store,
Which might outrank, might come before,
Be deeper even, than a victim’s pain;
In fact would demonstrate the pain’s full meaning,
Past depths of despair, beyond even screaming,
By agreeing, people’s worth
Is measured not just by their suffering.
When eye has been exchanged for eye
And tooth for tooth,
Is that then it?
There must be more still to the truth.
A life is worth more than a world of pain
And we, if we became one, would exclaim
“I’m more than a victim, I am Me!”
And what of victims cruelly wronged;
Raped, sold into sexual slavery,
Or as a child
Forced, at gun point, to kill
And then to sing the songs
Of rebel armies and run wild?
All at the hands of those who prosper,
Up until their victims die,
Whose words evaporate into the sky,
With no advocate to deal with their distress.
And their oppressors?
They meet only with success.
So, what of that? Is it, “so what”?
For those victims, is that all?
Is that enough?
Is the final answer, echoing down the Universe—
If that’s the case, then in the end,
(For all rule lies then with the strong)
Don’t waste your time or mine
With talk of right or wrong
Or “should” or “ought.”
For them, “wrong,”” strong,” is all the same– it’s won!
And in the cruel oppressor’s eyes, and ours
They count for nought,
And never will, forgotten or ignored;
And what a stroke of luck, no more than that,
That they are “they”and are not me or you.
And, if only luck keeps us,
Out of their shoes,
Keeps us from being used,
Then in the final reckoning
We too don’t count for anything.
And yet—we think we do!
This thought should send us reeling
For if we have real worth
There’s real guilt as well as feeling.