Some reflections by a doctor on the limits of what he can do for his patients who feel guilt or remorse when they have done wrong. Quote:
What’s the medical specialty that helps people who’ve done wrong? What’s the service industry that undoes guilt? I’m no expert, but as far as I can tell, the only methodical approaches to this are in organized religions. My colleagues and friends who are psychologists and psychiatrists may object. But it seems to me that mental health professionals can only clarify the patient’s goals and feelings, clarify if the ethical damage can be undone, and work through the feelings. That’s a lot, but it doesn’t strike me as what these patients are craving. They want to atone. Organized religions have a formula for that.
I’m not here to tell you to go to church. And I’m certainly not going to delve into theology or suggest that any religion’s recipe for forgiveness is true in a fundamental or exclusive sense. I’m just suggesting that if you know you’ve done something wrong, and you feel terribly about it, maybe you don’t need a doctor. Maybe you need a minister, a priest, or a rabbi.
Like I said, I love what I do. I can fix some medical problems, and I can help prevent others. I can help you live more days and make those days healthier. But there is more to life than that. Sometimes there is also wrongdoing, and guilt, and redemption. For that, I have no training. Forgive me.