Quaker guilt?

I’ve been pondering this one for a while–is there such a thing? Somehow, I seem to also ascribe a “saving grace” to preserve my own desire for whatever I feel guilt about. If there were a list of things I feel guilt about include:

  • Enjoying my motorcycle too much (guilt: gas/environmental impact/pollution; saving grace: smaller footprint than a car)
  • Computing (guilt: environmental impact for cheap construction/labor, hazardous materials, digital divide; saving grace: less paper use, greater equality among who controls media sources)
  • Television/Movies (guilt: less focus on interpersonal relationships; saving grace: greater storytelling possibilities)
  • Listening to my iPod (guilt/saving grace: see television/movies)
  • Living in a city (guilt: greater impact on the environment, dependence on “the grid”; saving grace: options for transportation, smaller “footprint”, shared resources and systems)
  • Working in a private school (guilt: separate school for money; saving grace: ability to openly combine religion with education)

My Quaker guilt seems to have less to do with Scripture and righteousness and more to do with whether I am living equally with others and within a sustainable, environmental life for the Earth.

2 thoughts on “Quaker guilt?

  1. I remember visiting a meetinghouse shortly after a high school gathering and seeing a sign next to a light switch saying “Save the world, turn out the lights!” It seemed kind of a sad message for the kids, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders if you forget to turn off a light. Friends, at least some Friends, seem very scrupulous about minor eco-do-goodism, but it’s less personal self-sacrifice and more collectively changing our world so that everyone can live a more sustainable life. And that ultimately this is just a side effect of righteous Quaker living.

    I should say I’m often pretty hard on myself. As my lifestyle has become more constrained I’ve sold out more but again I think that’s partly the lack of opportunities–e.g., I’d love an affordable eco car that could hold three adults and two kids, I’d love housing next to good jobs with good schooling. But then who wouldn’t love these things?

  2. I’ve worked hard to try and alleviate the guilt, but I find that it’s definitely impossible to be completely guilt-free. It seems to be more of the faith and practice component than the possibility for complete release of guilty feelings.

    We try to practice that with our Peace and Social Concerns work, where guilt can run high. The mantra that “you can’t save the world on a few pennies, but you can contribute your part” seems to help.

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