WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT GUILT? by Harlan J. Wechsler


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Learning to Live With It Since We Can't Live Without ItFrom a rabbi who's a professor of philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America: a finely wrought, challenging book that studies the meaning, value, and ultimate use of guilt. Wechsler is far more profound, erudite, and traditional than one might imagine from the glitzy subtitle. While the publisher may see this book as a lucrative spinoff of Rabbi Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Wechsler really writes for a more sophisticated, analytical audience. Kushner's best-selling dose of ""feel good""/""no guilt"" pop theology is rather antithetical to Wechsler's thesis that guilt is as necessary as physical pain. Physical healing cannot take place without symptomatic pains, he argues; nor can emotional and psychological healing begin without the part-mental, part-physical pain of guilt. While even liberal clergymen like Kushner end up secularizing and trivializing grand concepts like providence, free will, and personal responsibility, Wechsler is unashamed to take a traditional line on the benefits of guilt, confession, and action-oriented repentance. The author acknowledges that it is enticing to bludgeon religion by attacking guilt, but he warns us that guilt will merely show up at the funeral wearing secular clothes. In a world where ""sin"" is a piece of cheesecake, Wechsler educates, provokes, and inspires the reader to face guilt feelings and to appreciate them as calls to return to God and humanity by addressing and correcting our unskillful behavior. A unique and valuable book that just may be--despite its hundreds of inspiring quotes and humorous anecdotes from the contemporary scene and from Christian writings--too heavy with scholarly Jewish material to appeal widely to the huge quick-fix self-help readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster