Answer: Whether we speak of
collective guilt or individual guilt, guilt is one of those
psychological realities that has not served religion well. A sense of
excessive guilt does no one any favours. Carried to excess, it can be
paralyzing, even pathological.
Guilt has been used as a tool of manipulation to induce conversion or
conformity, and even to scapegoat an entire people. On the individual
level, wallowing in guilt could be taken as an indicator of obsessive
preoccupation with self, or a curious, subtle form of self-love.
The reality of guilt is something of a conundrum. We have “survivor
guilt,” by which an individual feels guilty simply for having been
spared death when others have not. Psychiatrists have noted that even
little children, for no explicable reason, sometimes feel guilty for
the death of their parents or grandparents. The irrational roots of
guilt lie deep.
But whatever the psychological roots of guilt may be, the natural human
tendency is to want to have one’s guilt expiated. And, of course, the
notion of seeking forgiveness and pardon exists in all of the world’s
religions in one form or another.
A healthy conscience should feel guilty or remorseful when it has
violated its own dictates. When we have hurt others, we should
acknowledge our wrongdoing and seek to make amends. But the Bahá’í
Faith knows no sacramental confession and absolution from sins through
another human being.
This practice is actually forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the
Prophet-Founder of this religion. He states that “such confession
before people results in one’s humiliation and abasement,” and he
affirms that God “wisheth not the humiliation of His servants.”
Bahá’u’lláh has revealed prayers for the forgiveness of one’s sins and
shortcomings; he has assured us that if contrition is sincere,
forgiveness is assured.
The challenge remains, of course, to avoid falling into that natural
pattern by which wrongdoing is repeated. To avoid the cycle of
repetition, self-awareness, vigilance, patience and, if necessary,
counselling may be required. But the anatomy of sin or wrongdoing would
seem to be relentless. They have of way of returning until we begin to
face and seriously attempt to overcome our weakness. -