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Guilt, shame and forgiveness

“My mother decided, that within the family, we’d never speak about it.  We’d live our lives as though it simply never happened.”

In a very distressing story, those words were some of the most haunting.

Earlier this week, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts, “Outlook” on BBC World.  The presenter was interviewing an Australian lady, Kelly Connor, who aged 17 had caused the death of a pedestrian in a road accident.  It was the kind of situation that could happen to any of us.  No recklessness, “just” human error.  And yet a person had died.

With all the best intentions, the family tried to continue with life as though the event hadn’t happened.  Yet Kelly could not live with her guilt and deep sense of shame.  In a very real way, she experienced what David describes in Psalm 32: 3+4:

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.
The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

For decades, she lived in a wilderness.

She finally found some peace when she gave up on trying to keep what had happened a secret, and told first her daughter and then others about it.

I have no idea what Kelly Connor thinks about God and His forgiveness.  But listening to her, I hope she has or will experience what David describes in the rest of the psalm (verses 5, 1 + 2):

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

From wilderness to beautiful meadow.

If you want to listen to the programme, you can find it here.  It was broadcast on 14 May 2012.

This is the book she wrote about her experience: “To Cause a Death: The Aftermath of an Accidental Killing”, by Kelly Connor

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