Gratitude and Guilt

fireGratitude is a key aspect of Ignatian spirituality, and even when I don’t have much time for prayer, I do try to take a few moments each day to thank God for the blessings of the day. The problem is that sometimes when I look at the world around me, it seems so very dark for many, and I have to admit that my gratitude can be weighed down in guilt. I go to sleep each night in my warm house, never worrying that my neighborhood might be bombed as I sleep. I say good-bye to my husband each morning as we head off to work, never worrying that he may be taken by armed men never to return. I send my daughter to school each day, never wondering if her education might cost her life. I don’t know the pain of hunger or the loneliness of loss. Sometimes in considering the overwhelming blessings in my life, I wonder how it is that I could live such an easy life while others suffer so cruelly. Guilt takes over. In this affluent society in which we live, I suspect I’m not alone in feeling this.

Now, guilt is the natural result of our transgressions and normally leads us to remorse and apology. The fact that we live relatively comfortable lives, however, is not completely within our control. Consequently, it may not be something we should feel sorry about. It’s tempting to stop there and dismiss the feeling as “good ol’ Catholic guilt.” But what if the guilt is stemming from something deeper?

St. Ignatius encourages retreatants to pay attention to how they are feeling, so it would be wrong just to dismiss the guilt. Rather, Ignatius would have us spend some time in the messiness of such an uncomfortable feeling and see where it leads. Maybe the guilt does stem from something we can control; maybe it comes from something we are not doing—yet.

“Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48). It’s interesting that just after this passage in Luke is the verse, “I have come to bring a fire upon the earth and how I wish it were already kindled” (12:49). That uneasy feeling inside is perhaps a call to action—the spark that will ignite that flame. In the uncomfortable feeling, amid our many, many blessings, what is God calling us to do?

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Cara Callbeck
Cara Callbeck holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and works in the public sector as a human resources professional. Cara recently completed the Spiritual Exercises and has since felt quite drawn to Ignatian spirituality. She is now on a quest to learn more and grow and to incorporate Ignatian spirituality in her life as a professional, mother, and “woman for others.” Cara lives in the Canadian Prairies with the two greatest blessings in her life—her husband and daughter.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Cara,as I read your post I was struck by the similarities between our feelings of gratitude and guilt.
    I have often asked myself,”why am I so blest with all these gifts? These freedoms? This natural beauty outside my window? Social media is filled with causes and charities. Television and radio crowds our senses with images and stories which forever remain in our memory. At times it seems that any action we take would be useless against such Goliath world issues.
    Enter our blessings. Enter that guilt which I,too, believe springs from a root desire to do something. I think we start where we are. Each day, is there one act where you can “pay forward” your blessings?

  2. Card’s words are meaningful, and inspiring, and the “guilt” something one can relate to. Perhaps today is the day I can begin to do something about it. Thank you, Cara.

  3. Cara, thank you for a very insightful article that echoes many of my feelings. I will read this tonight to the Bible Study group that meets in my home as there is much food for thought. Blessings.

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