Thursday, March 5, 2009

Guilt spelled backwards is still guilt

I've been thinking about guilt a lot lately.
If you haven't figured it out yet, this is not a funny post. Beware ye, all who enter here.
When you feel guilt, you twist it around and shake it, drop it on it's hind end,
and it's still there.

You say, "It's not bad," or "It's their fault," or "It doesn't matter I should just forget it" ("IT" is involved a lot with guilt). But, it hangs around anyway.

This didn't start with my own guilt, actually, but thinking about other people's guilt.

On Saturday I took Amaya around and tried to make a whole girls hanging together (GHT) morning, and on the way to the North Shore to get acai bowls, we hit some traffic. In Hawaii stand still traffic means wave scoping, or accident, big accident. Traffic was moving through one lane only and took a while. When we got through I saw a car, a bike, and a bike kid trailer. Guess which ones were smashed up really badly.

Police were everywhere and areas roped off, and the woman in the car was sitting there, in her car.

My thoughts kind of bounced through hoping kids were not in the trailer (there were) and feeling terrible for all parties involved. Over the next couple of days I looked through the news articles about it on-line and found one article where people could comment on the story.
Really, why I was so focused on this one accident is the mysterious working of humanity. Tragedies can only be let in to weigh on the mind so much. There are so many things I think of that press my heart or sicken me and make me feel very helpless in regards to the wrongs in the world.

Before I read through the comments on the story I had been thinking about the woman who hit that mother and her two children and how completely awful (really, a word worse than awful, but what that word is, I don't know) she must be feeling about what she had done. And she will have to live with that for the rest of her life, even if all three of those people live.
The comments on the story were surprisingly hateful to the driver. Maybe I should have found it unsurprising. Everyone seemed to think this woman was a total idiot in expletives (maybe she was) and should be locked away forever.

I don't know. I had a hard time feeling that way. I don't think I can even imagine the guilt this woman must be feeling. She was probably putting on makeup, talking on her cell phone, eating, changing the radio dial or any number of things that complacent drivers tend to do. I myself have done all of those things while driving (except put on makeup since I don't wear it).
Certainly what is happening to that poor family is terrible. No one questions that. Still, it's hard for me to put an accident in the same category as someone who willfully harms another person.
The miscreant, sociopath, and/or criminal is less prone to guilt. Less likely to admit it. Less likely to even be caught, than the person who mistakenly harms another person and who must immediately deal with the consequences of their actions.

This whole train of thought made me consider the guilt I feel and have felt. It's a hard thing to shake. I don't really buy into the idea that guilt is only associated with sin or even when it is because of sin that it leaves completely when you are forgiven. He probably tells us to forgive one another because He knows that we have to deal with each other and ourselves in the more immediate sense. The idea of forgiveness is even more important for us with this world.

I think God is more forgiving than mortals.


Kristina P. said...

I definitely agree with that last line of yours. But God is perfect and can understand our minds and our hearts, where people are very judgemental by nature.

I don't know if I could ever forgive myself if I accidentally killed someone. What a tough thing to go through. I hope all parties involved can somehow, sometime, find peace in their lives again.

Smiths said...

Heavy stuff there Mariko. I HATE the guilt feeling, especially feeling guilty for something you had no intention of doing. I can't imagine going through what the driver is going through. I find myself hurting more for her than the people hit. What's interesting to me about forgiveness is that until you forgive you can't really heal and move on from what happened to you. Ugh. Life. Something we tell Taj when he makes a mess or accident is that everyone makes messes and has accidents. The important thing is that we clean it up. It's harder than it sounds though.

Heidi said...

Guilt serves one purpose and one purpose only--to help us make the determined decision to never make that mistake again. Sadly, even after people have reached that point, they still feel guilty--it's hard to let it go even though all it is doing is making people feel miserable. It isn't meant to be the punishment though it often is.

The Crash Test Dummy said...

I am talking about this in my class right now because we're reading The Things They Carried and as you know it's all about the emotional ghosts that haunt us. Sometimes when you're head's not in the game it's a matter of life and death.

I don't know how I could live with myself either. The mental anguish would be so relentless. I think about that a lot too. I feel so sad for her, especially because no one else does. She needs the healing powers of the atonement as much, or MORE than those who lost the victim.

I have felt so sad about that accident. Did the mother die? My husband's co-worker was the one who saw it happen and called 911. It broke my heart to hear about the children asking if their mommy was okay.

Seeing accidents is always so haunting.

Great post.

i'm erin. said...

Yes I agree, whenever you've done something irreversable...regrettable, there is always that emotional ghost that follows you around. I think faith helps to heal old wounds. I tend to react like the angry people, but I can see the woman involved must be hurting deeply too. How sad for everyone involved.

Sylvia Louise said...

I had a classmate once who was a vegan. She said that she didn't know how to reconcile the fact that she felt guilt for something (eating meat) that she knew wasn't wrong before God. How do we find forgiveness for things that we've done that maybe aren't wrong before God, but feel wrong before ourselves? Sometimes I think guilt is totally justified and sometimes I think we feel guilty and treat ourselves terribly even when what we've done doesn't fall under a moral code that we consciously believe in.

I don't understand forgiveness, really. But it's pretty amazing.

ashley said...

ah, that sucks. i feel so bad for the lady that hit them. of course i feel bad for the family it happened to and hope the mom is going to be alright, but i feel bad for the lady too. it is not like she meant to hit them and like you said she will have to live with that haunting her forever. how sad.

The Wife said...

Thank you for taking the view that you did. My brother-in-law was involved in an simmilar accident where he was the driver and two women were hit. One ended up dying. The guilt and remorse that he has is undescribable. I too read comments to the articles that were written about the accident and there were some that were so hateful. They made all sort of assumptions on what a criminal he must have been. It made me so upset that they did not once think of the guilt and pain of my brother-in-law. It was a complete accident and he will be paying for it the rest of his life.