February 2024

I was reminded the other day of a distinction that I had forgotten. It is the distinction between shame cultures and guilt cultures. Shame cultures concentrate on what other people think about you, so loss of face or embarrassment are uppermost.

And I thought of this in the context of the Post Office and the scandalous way it had treated its sub-postmasters.

Here was a ‘shame’ culture writ large, the motto apparently ‘Do not get found out’ or ‘Do not admit your wrong’. For right across this scandal, we have seen individuals unwilling to admit they were wrong or responsible. Shame has its place of course, but if it leads us to believe that public figures and institutions are always engaged in some kind of evasion or cover up, it will lead to suspicion and a damaging lack of trust.

By contrast, ‘guilt’ cultures promote honesty and a willingness to admit you are wrong. They encourage apology and forgiveness. They say to people: ‘Be honest and admit it when you are wrong’.

Christianity is firmly in the ‘guilt’ category. Repentance and forgiveness are at the heart of its message. And in the middle of this month, on February 14th, we will see how true this is. For on that day, Ash Wednesday, the period of Lent begins – a period of self-reflection and repentance for our conduct, our falling short or missing the mark. And the forgiveness we can be assured of comes from the God who forgives in and through Jesus Christ.

There will be a service at All Saints at midday, and I will mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of all who would like this ‘ashing’. You will be most welcome at this service which will be followed by a Lent soup and bread lunch in the annex in aid of the hungry.

With every blessing