Guilt is the worst type of motivation. Think about it - when has guilt ever borne good fruit in your life? It may have moved you to act - but from what basis? It might have got a job done, but at what cost? And yet in so many ways we have become masters at either making others feel guilt or bearing guilt ourselves.
When we bear guilt ourselves it often springs from inadequacy. We put expectations on our shoulders that are poorly managed which leads to stress and frustration. Like when we fail to leave enough time between meetings to catch our breath or reflect on what has been said. No sooner have we stepped out of one thing and we are walking into the next - no space in between. No head space - just heart race. It leads only to guilt. Of course, we can try and get over guilt by projecting it onto others, but it rarely works, certainly over the long term. Otherwise we bear it - and it gets us down. We must do better if we want to thrive.
Then we use guilt to motivate others - which is even worse and we can all be (excuse the pun) guilty of doing this. How often do we want to get someone to do something and we use guilt, often subtly, as a motivator to action. The job gets done - but at what cost to that person? Not that we ever say that - we just speak in terms of the consequences of inaction which leads to fear of not responding which gives birth to condemnation and condemnation as the word suggests just weighs people down. No good news there then. From a Christian perspective using guilt as a motivator to action is both poor shepherding and bad theology because Christ has come to lift us up.
Sadly, we often interpret the good news though this lens. We call people to Christ through fear rather than love. We offer the commandments as rules to be obeyed rather than showing them as boundaries for human thriving. And the truth is the modern world has caught up and is no longer captured by its tone. Am I saying that and guilt no longer matters? No, of course not, when it is used to bring about justice. But what I am saying is that if we use guilt to drive people to fear in order to get them to act we have missed the point. The Christian story is one of God winning hearts and minds - and a heart that's won is a heart that surrenders to the one who won it. Christ came to lift us up not drag us down. People have enough guilt without the Church adding to it. We are here as liberators to set people free from guilt not to drive them through it. As the apostle Paul wrote, 'There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.’ It's a great story and one that needs retelling well if the church is to reshape its mission of creating true hope for the modern world.