Women and guilt

Pride is not [women's] besetting sin, even though many readily accuse themselves of it. Women’s distinctive sin is self-contempt. Women’s self-contempt manifests itself as an unwillingness to grow and take the risks that growth demands. It is often difficult for women to see that their reluctance to accept maturity is a tacit refusal of adult responsibility.

“How can this be?” they ask, as they feel themselves burdened, indeed overwhelmed, by their responsibilities as wives, mothers, employees, and professionals. Yet by over-zealousness in their obligations toward others, especially husbands and children, and a corresponding neglect of themselves, women manage to avoid inner growth.

My two favorite questions–”What do you want?” and “Where do you hurt?”–are excellent diagnostic tools for getting at sinful ways of being and at the same time revealing the innate beauty and goodness the woman denies.

Some women suffer from a pervasive sense of guilt and sin simply because they exist. This is rarely conscious or articulated, but it is crippling.

It is important not to minimize the sin of self-hatred and self-contempt. At its heart is a denial of God’s love and the goodness of God’s creation. The woman discounts herself as part of creation and assumes that the rules of divine love do not apply to her. That love is there for everyone else, but not for her.

Holy Listening, by Margaret Guenther, excerpts from Chapter Four, Women and Spiritual Direction

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