Friday, June 21, 2013

Recent Writings and Guilt vs. Repentance

At Real Intent, I was asked to write a post last week related to the upcoming Father's Day Sunday. After reading someone's offhand comment in a Facebook group about how difficult Father's Day is for her (and having put a lot of thought to paternal disappearing acts thanks to my wife's first husband), I decided to write something about fathers who leave. Partly, I just wanted to say something about how disappointing I find it when men are unprepared or unwilling to live up to the demands of fatherhood. Partly, I wanted to explore some of the tensions that millions of fathers might be running from. 

This week, it was my turn to write on the Association for Mormon Letters blog. I've been reading a lot of Young Adult novels recently, and wanted to talk about their depictions of sexuality in a way that focused less on the question of detail and more on the question of framing and context. Partly, I wanted to complain about the way sexual operates in our cultural story-world. Partly, I wanted to think about what other pressures might be leading writers to treat sexuality in a certain way.

Thinking about both those blog posts, I am now thinking about the relationship between guilt and repentance. It's interesting to me that in both cases, the obvious problem (leaving a family or having an irresponsible attitude toward sex) likely comes from a less obvious root problem (such as difficulty dealing with pressure or a lack of clear rites of passage).

Since feelings of guilt typically come from a sense of accountability, I'm OK with guilt. It's uncomfortable, sure, but it's better than being a sociopath. I think repentance, though, often involves backing up a few steps from the thing we feel guilty about to understand what subtle problem in our attitudes or behaviors might be making us so susceptible to the more obvious sin in the first place.


  1. I was reading today in "Double Double" which is mother and son Martha Grimes and Ken Grimes memoir of their two different experiences with alcoholism. Ken Grimes talked about when he stopped drinking, it was really tough, but the real challenge came later when he stopped smoking... and then realized that without alcohol and cigarettes, he had no mechanism for controlling the deep-rooted anger that was the real problem.

    His eventual solution was to take up meditation and boxing.



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