'I ought'-- we have within us a moral judge, to whom we feel ourselves subject, and who points out and
requires of us our duty. (p. 233)
We did not need as much time with this idea. The children had all experienced that "Uh-oh!" moment, when conscience pricks. They described it as feeling flushed; their stomachs and chests tighten, and they avert their eyes. They are self-conscious, and the thought that they are in the wrong weighs heavily on their minds. We had a great discussion about how people deal with that feeling. Sometimes we get defensive and blame others. Other times we try to rationalize or justify what we did. But that little voice is relentless. We may try to go on with our business without dealing with it, but it always returns. Tap tap tap--"I'm still here, and you're still wrong." At that point, we know that the only way to make things better is to admit we were wrong and try our best to make things right. That might mean apologizing, asking forgiveness, making a repair, or replacing something.
This led into a very insightful discussion on the differences between guilt and shame. According to Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, guilt is a force that propels us to action to make things right. When we deal with guilt in a healthy way, we are able to make amends and then return to a state of peace and joy pretty quickly. Shame, on the other hand, occurs when we internalize our bad choice and make negative generalizations about ourselves. For example, we might engage in defeating self-talk such as, "I'm so stupid," "I'm bad," or "I never do anything right." That kind of response to conscience is toxic and does not lead to growth and restoration, because it squashes hope of things ever getting better.
It is important that our children know that their worth is not tied to their behavior, their grades, their athletic ability, or their appearance. That is part of the I Am. Every person has intrinsic worth and is precious in God's sight. That's why the "ought" is there--to guide us to fuller living. Learning what to do with that "ought" takes time, experience, and strength of Will, which we will talk about next week.