via Daily Prompt: Guilty
Guilty is such a loaded term, I looked it up before starting to write. Concisely and unequivocally, Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary and Thesaurus (HarperCollins, 2006) defines guilty:
having done wrong.
When I was a child, people often made me feel guilty, not because I was, but to maintain control over me. With that aim, guilt is used by individuals and institutions everywhere. The reason is simple, and stated, as I recall, by the Smoking Man in X-Files:
When you can ease a person’s conscience, you can take their freedom away from them.
Therefore, via manipulation, a person can feel guilty without being guilty. The reverse is true as well. I watch people neglect their commitments and infringe the rights of others without consideration. Those people are guilty – they just don’t feel guilty.
Confusion about whether someone is guilty, especially nowadays, seems to spring from its legal definition, which might be more like so:
provably responsible for a crime that’s been brought to court.
Many people apparently believe that if they can get away with an offence, they’re not guilty of it. Everyday rudeness, therefore, can be committed without guilt, since it’s not illegal. Moreover, a murder can be committed, but if no evidence against its perpetrator exists, they remain “not guilty.”
Yet, the perpetrator is guilty. Being rude is wrong, so having been so, the offender is guilty. Similarly, the murderer is guilty, whether the court finds them so or not.
If you’re religious – which I am – “guilty” and “not guilty” are probably easier states to distinguish; God knows, after all, what you did. I don’t necessarily believe in heaven vs hell, reward vs punishment, and so on. Much more directly,
if God knows you did it, then you know.
God might be like a blank piece of paper, the sin like a blot of ink thereon.
As a parent, and as a person, I’m guilty of countless wrongs. (Hopefully) I commit fewer now than when I was younger, because I understand better, today, what is wrong. I feel guilty – yet, unlike when I was a child, it’s not a bad feeling. Rather, it’s the truth that helps me navigate life, going forward.
Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane Campbell River, BC.