As a result of their research they found those with higher levels of guilt were more likely to be trustworthy and caring. They also found they are more likely to be sympathetic, see other people’s point of view, and consider the consequences of their behaviour.
Those who are guilt-prone anticipate having negative feelings before they do something morally wrong. It also found that women are more guilt-prone than men. The report's co-author Taya Cohen noted that: ‘The guilt-proneness scale has the potential to be an important tool for predicting which individuals are likely to behave unethically inside and outside the workplace.’
Moreover the study revealed that those who feel shame and remorse more strongly than others make better pals, employees and partners and that the better friends are those more prone to feel bad (about themselves, those around them, their work, family, the world).
The initial response to this is that I have not read the full report, rather the summary analysis, but having done that, it seems to me there are several issues to be raised.
The first is that most mothers would concur with the summary of their report without having done the professional research analysis. Mother's instinctively know when any of their children -
• tell a 'whopper',
• are 'misleading' in their answers,
• display the tell tale signs of 'guilt'
Mothers are also acutely aware of
• the developing natures of their children
• where the moral compass of their child is
• how friendships work with school and neighbourhood friends
Mothers' quickly gain a wealth of experience of the ‘guilt and shame proneness’ scale, mother's are wily as, and it's fascinating as mothers discuss such matters with other parents – the same story is revealed over and again. Moreover mothers discuss such things with their own mothers all of which reveal a common pattern of humanity.
The Market Place
In the market place – whether that be the family, the corporation, business, politics, the work situation, the social club, the sports field – these things are clearly observed and are verified by sociologists and psychologists.
The market place depends on honesty, integrity, good character, a genuine interest, and a host of unwritten agreed associations for the mutual respectful functioning of society and that good order around us prevails.
At this level the report's comments that “higher levels of guilt were more likely to be trustworthy and caring along with being more likely to be sympathetic, seeing other people’s point of view, and considering the consequences of their behaviour,” - is standard practise in any society of mutual well-being.
Moreover the idea that guilt-proneness has the potential to be an important tool for predicting which individuals are likely to behave unethically inside and outside the workplace’ - is not only a correct analysis but one that has been acknowledged by societies for centuries.
Has 'guilt' been confused with 'conscience' ?
The real question in my view is not the analysis, but rather the initial assumption, that the question is linked to guilt at all. Putting guilt before conscience is like placing the cart in front of the horse. It's inevitable that it's going to be a no go!
The pertinent question to ask is, “where does 'guilt' come from?”
If 'guilt' exists by itself without a reference point to determine the guilt, the nature of guilt would need redefining to something for which this study knows nothing of and is silent about. Clearly guilt doesn't exist in a vacuum?
It therefore appears as though the study's authors and researchers has predetermined where guilt comes from – that is the conscience.
Now a pandora's box gets opened. Those without a world view of a creator God have to find a way to explain 'conscience' without any absolutes. How could anyone feel guilty of anything without a reference point from deep within themselves as to the veracity of the measured guilt.
A better grasp
Therefore in my view, the conscience is the issue associated with this study, not that of guilt. Once the word 'conscience' replaces the word 'guilt', then the study is clearly clarifying and the analysis can be better announced.
Those who exercise a heightened sense of conscience will react more cautiously than those who tend to sidestep their conscience. Therefore the outward working of decision making of these become vastly different. The examples are in evidence in the home, the work place, business, play ground, sport, and even the church and missions.
There is a great wealth in Philippians 4 verse 8: “... whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html