I’ve got to wonder if Sherriff McDuffie, just as his head hits the pillow at night and he’s about to drift off to sleep, ever reviews the events of the day and just busts out with laughter. It’s got to happen on occasion.
This from a local report — and I am not making this up: Woman A was in line at a local convenience store in order to pay for a drink. Woman B sees her, yells at her, and “pushed her head with her finger.” Woman A calls the police and wants to press charges.
OK, you might say, a bit of an overreaction for a finger-to-the-head, but perhaps there is some history there. Uh, apparently so.
Why, pray tell, would Woman B be so angry that she would push Woman A’s head with her finger? Simple: Woman B’s husband is now “with” Woman A.
So, just to review: Woman A is having an affair with Woman B’s husband, Woman B confronts Woman A and puts her finger to Woman A’s head, and Woman A calls the police? Apparently so. Woman A even explains the reason for the head-butt to the officer. Is there no shame? Apparently not.
Can you imagine this scenario perhaps 50 years ago? They might still be cleaning up Woman A. I wonder if our society has distorted and watered down what is right and wrong so much that it is completely unrecognizable by most people.
Years ago, Dr. M. Scott Peck wrote about the danger of raising children with no sense of guilt or shame. He said it was a horrible thing to do to a child, and he was right.
Guilt and shame are our inner guideposts, boundary lines. They restrict our behavior and tell us when we have stepped over the line, broken internalized moral codes of conduct. These boundary lines are necessary for civil society, and for the healthy psychological and spiritual development of a person. Show me someone with no sense of guilt or shame and I will show you a character-disordered sociopath in the making.
To not have those guideposts means anything is acceptable, so long as the person himself or herself is OK with it. But the freedom I have to swing my arm stops at the point of your nose. So these folks often end up in conflict with others, claiming, “It shouldn’t bother you if it is OK with me,” and, “If it makes me happy, who are you to question it?” When there are no boundaries to cross, no red flags go up, there is no guilt, no shame.
Now, to be sure, excessive guilt — a kind of neuroses — can also be destructive. No one should feel guilty over things they did not participate in. It is, rather, a healthy sense of guilt we seek when we cross boundary lines. This psychologically and spiritually healthy dynamic is one in which God’s laws direct us on the right path and guide us to conform to the moral codes we have internalized. And when they don’t, we recognize it, turn back, feel genuinely remorseful, make amends, and try our best to not do it again.
Without such a sense of guilt, no behavior is out of bounds and we end up shocked that someone would dare to accuse us of anything or call us out. We end up the “victim” of a finger-pointing — or worse.
As any pastor or parent would, I hope I can help instill a healthy sense of who God is and His standards of right and wrong in the young people I encounter. That sense of ethics and morals — of where those boundaries are — reins in destructive behavior, especially to one’s self.
In the meantime, the sheriff has got a lot to laugh about.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.