A Guilt Culture

“The emergence of a guilt culture in Judaism flowed from its understanding of the relationship between God and humankind. In Judaism we are not actors on a stage with society as the audience and judge. We can fool society; we cannot fool God. All pretence and pride, every mask and persona, the cosmetic cultivation of public image are irrelevant. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). Shame cultures are collective and conformist. By contrast, Judaism, the archetypal guilt culture, emphasises the individual and his or her relationship with God. What matters is not whether we conform to the culture of the age but whether we do what is good, just, and right.”

Essays on Ethics, p. 180