Unrighteous Guilt

A few weeks ago, my wife came home from Church with a new phrase: “unrighteous guilt.” I’ve been thinking about those words often since. This is what I’ve been thinking. 

It is a familiar phrase. I have been guilty of unrighteous guilt in the past. Let me tell you what I think that is.

Unrighteous guilt is when you feel guilty when you shouldn’t. It is the guilt you feel because you are not willing to take action to resolve it. It is the kind of guilt you feel long after you have resolved your problem.

Unrighteous guilt is guilt minus faith or hope. It is guilt by disassociation—disassociation from the power of God to forgive, and the power we hold to forgive each other and move on.

Unrighteous guilt is false guilt. True guilt, if I can term it such, is the kind of guilt that nudges you in the right direction, and once you are on your way, it leaves you alone. True guilt is your friend; false, unrighteous guilt is your enemy.

Anything or anyone that keeps you from doing what you know is right is your enemy.

Unrighteous guilt is that nagging feeling after you have taken the necessary steps to resolve the source of your feeling to correct your errors and repent.

Unrighteous guilt chains you to the past. It’s the kind of guilt that tries to keep you from moving forward.

To shuffle off this coil of guilt, we must accept today as a new day and accept our life on that new day as a gift from God. God will not bind us to our old life and past mistakes—only we do that. We can change.

Look up. Pick the new direction you want to go. Start moving. Leave unrighteous guilt on the path behind you. You don’t need it. No one does.

Guilt’s job is to point the way back, not to be a burden.

Today is a great day to say good-bye to that rusty, old feeling.

On Light and Darkness

One of the hallmarks of LDS general conference (happening this weekend in Salt Lake City) is the protesters. I am sure they are full of conviction, sincere and hopeful. Occasionally they engage someone in meaningful conversation, but not often from what I’ve seen. One year, in front of the conference center, I actually saw a street preacher speaking kindly and invitingly to passersby. I am sure there is good in their hearts, in spite of their methods of delivery.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. —2 Timothy 3:12

I do not wish to denigrate any human being or the purposes and motives of others. I do not wish to return “railing for railing” (1 Peter 3:9). But I would like to share my perspective.

When I first started learning about what is commonly called Mormonism, parents, family, and friends heaped piles of anti-Mormon literature on me. (This was before the Internet; it was all printed on paper.) A large pile. I believe, and I am being honest, that the stack of books, booklets, and pamphlets reached two feet high.

It was at that time in my young life that I made a discovery.

One voice was unanimously, decidedly if disparately, against Mormonism, its doctrines, its leaders, its history, of all it represented. It was a harsh, unkind voice.

And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. —D&C 50:23

Another voice I heard at that time was one that encouraged learning and growth, understanding and openness; it said build bridges, don’t burn them; it taught the value of engaging in careful study and withholding judgment; it showed me the purpose behind genuine and continuous prayer; it evinced soul searching, sincere repentance, the setting aside of differences, and the importance of forgiving others; it led me to have patience in suffering and with myself and others, to treat everyone with respect no matter how they acted or what they believed; it showed me how to look to God for direction in daily life and how to bring mortal appetites into subjection.

And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. —D&C 11:12–13

Please do not mistake my meaning. It is not that I did not see faults and troubles in the lives of my new friends, the Latter-day Saints. It was just that I never did see and never have seen evidence of the claims so commonly leveled against them. Yes, I have seen and do see weaknesses and mistakes and human error and sin. Every single day. I just have never seen what others claimed to see.

To me, the whole situation is a little like this:

Let’s say you like college basketball. In fact, your favorite team is Michigan. You love them and believe in them with all your soul. Then someone comes up to you and says, “You’re not a Michigan fan. You’re lying. You really want Louisville to win. You can’t fool me. You’re rooting for the other side.”

Can you understand how I felt? Do you see what I am saying?

What I am not saying is that there is no flaw on one side and only beauty on the other.

People see the world in different ways. We need to allow for that. I do. I try hard to, anyway—and to judge no one, to condemn no one.

But, at age 17, I was looking for a light in my wilderness, for a Spirit in which to put my trust.

And I found it.

I turn my face toward the light, my back to darkness.

It was not a harsh, unkind voice then. It is not now. I am still here.

Seven Thousand Pages

Forty volumes of my personal journal, with Max the Poet Dog. Yesterday—Easter Sunday—I reached seven thousand pages in my personal journal. I am near the end of my fortieth volume.

My first journal entry was on April 20, 1976. I was 18 years old. I have kept it up for 37 years.

Why have I kept it up?

Number 1. I am a writer. Writers write. It’s what writers do.

Number 2. We have a choice: expression or depression. I choose expression. Or it keeps choosing me.

Number 3. A journal is a place to practice with few negative consequences.

Number 4. It’s history. It is for my children and grandchildren. I hope it will be of value to them someday. Someday.

Though at times I have ripped pages out of my journal, it is mostly an intact record of my adult life. A record of my woes and joys, of trials and triumphs, of miracles, of my ever changing perspective.

Some of it is self-enamored drivel. I know that. But I forgive myself for that.

It is a pathway. It is both a method to relieve my madness and to relive my madness. And happiness. It works. It has been worth the effort.

I only wish I had written more.

P.S. This is not an April Fools joke. 

A Rite of Spring, Revisited

Every spring since 2001, I have gotten gout—often a bad case. By bad I mean I couldn’t walk, I had to use crutches or a cane. It would last sometimes 8 weeks or more.

But not this spring. No gout. Gone.

Over the last two years, I’ve been able to address the things that my doctor suspected were at the root of the problem.

One hereditary problem she identified a year ago was methelyenetetrahydrofolatereductase polymorphism (try saying that real fast three times). It affects about 10 percent of the population, and people with this mutation don’t process homocysteine well. That’s me.

High levels of homocysteine can cause inflammation, which leads to gout. High levels can also cause heart disease and cancer. My father and his mom both died of heart attacks. Anyway, the treatment for this little problem of mine is rather simple: just take a few supplements. B12 and B6 vitamins and folate. I take those daily, plus D3 with Vitamin K also a lot of frozen cherries. Those things seemed to have made a huge difference.

I have had some big problems with my teeth for a number of years. Those things are all fixed now, including the removal of all my old fillings, many of which were cracked or falling apart. From the day that work was done, I have felt so much better. It was like night and day. In fact, I have not had any major gout symptoms or to take any gout medication since then.

During the last few years, my doctor has also suspected that I have problems with heavy metals. I was finally able to get that theory tested a number of weeks ago. And we discovered that I do indeed have a problem there. For example, I have about eight times the normal level of lead in my system. I don’t know where that came from, but suspect it was something I was exposed to in my childhood. I have high levels of several other metals. I need to address these problems now, but the current symptoms are not too bad (but they could get worse if I don’t start taking care of this now).

But right now, I am very grateful that my twelve year old spring fling with gout is under control. I won’t say it’s behind me, but it’s under control, without medication.

I am incredibly blessed.