My youngest child won’t eat shrimp. He says it makes him feel guilty.
I asked him why he didn’t feel guilty eating a hamburger.
He said, “Because a hamburger isn’t the whole animal, duh. But with shrimp, well, you’re eating this entire helpless tiny creature.
Apparently the cows had it coming. You can’t eat them in one bite.
The Problem with Guilt
Although I’ve got no problem eating shrimp, I’ve had a long torrid relationship with guilt. I’ve spent my whole life feeling guilty about something most of the time.
Guilt isn’t all bad. We’re supposed to feel guilty when we do something wrong.
But most of my guilt is self-induced. It’s not even normal, healthy guilt over wrongdoing. Instead, the guilt I carry is a way of beating myself down for my own humanness.
I don’t feel guilty so much for the things I’ve done as for the mile-long laundry list of things undone.
On a regular basis I feel guilty for:
- Not being a good enough mom.
- Not being a good enough wife.
- Not keeping a clean enough house.
- Not getting everything done that needs doing.
- Going out to eat when there’s already food in the fridge.
- Sitting down/lying down/resting when there’s still work to be done.
- And God forbid, taking a nap.
I could go on for days.
Guilt’s a Heavy Load
Y’all, that’s a lot of guilt. And it’s hard to let go of it when it’s been a lifelong companion.
Right this moment, I’m typing this blog post out of guilt! I haven’t blogged nearly enough lately and – guess what? – I feel guilty about it.
Guilt is no fun. It’s not quite as sinister as its cousin shame, but it’s definitely a foe rather than a friend.
So I sat down to write this post about guilt, thinking I could come up with three easy steps to help you let go of the guilt you’re carrying.
And I came up with zilch, nothing, nada.
Because I’m struggling with it. Right now. If I had an easy answer, maybe it wouldn’t be something I felt I needed to write about.
I think I hold on to guilt because I can’t forgive myself for not being perfect. And I’ve written about my battle with perfectionism before. No single person could accomplish all the tasks I expect from myself on a daily basis, but I still raise these impossible standards.
Then I feel guilty for missing the mark.
How’s a girl supposed to break free of that?
Silencing the Enemy
Yesterday I got this far in this post and had to set it aside for a while. Because no answers popped up.
This morning I decided to have a little coffee and quiet time in my closet. I’ve missed it the last couple of weeks when the end of school schedule got too hectic to handle.
So there I was, huddled up in my little prayer room, and I opened my devotional book. Today’s reading was Psalm 8, a psalm I’ve read a hundred times. I almost skipped it. But as I read, this verse jumped off the page:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2
And then like dew falling on fresh grass, the phrase came to me: “Praise silences the enemy.”
Here I am in this lifelong duel with an enemy who heaps guilt like burning coals upon my head. The gremlin in my head accuses me of never being good enough, never doing enough. He likes to make me think I’m a failure. It’s a constant tug-of-war and guilt is just one of the tools in his arsenal.
But praise silences the enemy.
I’ll admit it. Praise hasn’t been at the top of my list lately. And its absence made a crack for the guilt to come sauntering in.
Starting tomorrow, I plan to break out one of my favorite old devotional books, so I can get back into the habit of praise. Because I don’t have time for guilt. It weighs me down.
And the voice of guilt cannot stand against the praise of God’s people.
Just Keep Singing
A dear old friend of mine has twins the same age as my oldest. Years ago, when they were babies, I remember her telling me how she made it through the day with two infants. She would sing.
When the babies were crying, when my friend felt like crying, when she didn’t think she could keep going – she would sing. She sang “Standing on the Promises” and whatever other hymns popped into her head.
She just kept singing.
Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of his people. If that’s true, then praising – whether it’s singing or playing or dancing or praying – is a manifestation of the very Spirit of God who resides within us.
When we praise, the enemy can’t get a word in edgewise.
So what’s the antidote to that nagging guilt that keeps you tied down and afraid to fly?
How to Keep from Drowning in Guilt
A few years ago, one of our vicious Texas thunderstorms rolled through. It wasn’t the particular storm I remember – because those are a dime a dozen. What I recall from that day is the robin who perched defiantly on my rooftop and sang through the entire thing.
I’m not sure why he didn’t take cover. Seems like instinct would’ve told him to fly away. Maybe God compelled him to stay there on my roof as a minister to me that day.
All I know is the stubborn bird never stopped singing, even though the rain was pouring down.
And that’s the lesson isn’t it? Keep the praises going and the guilt can’t drown you.
Cliché as it sounds – singing in the rain might just save you from that heavy baggage you’ve been hauling around. And then when the sun comes out, you’ll be ready to soar.
Born to Praise
As if God weren’t already good enough, today as I sat on the patio and ate my lunch, a mama robin flew right past me and landed in a nearby tree. I kept my eye on her and sure enough, she hopped over to a nest and plopped herself on top of it. I guess I gawked enough that she got nervous, because she flew away a few moments later and I took advantage of the opportunity and stood up on a chair to get a peek.
Three eggs and one baby, just hatched. Absolutely beautiful and the delight of my day.
I praised God then and there for His handiwork. Suddenly, all that guilt didn’t matter any more.
That baby was born to sing, born to praise, born to fly. And so was I.
Guilt’s an enemy we’ve let linger far too long. Praise is the cure. And how can you not praise God at a sight like that?
It’s time to send guilt packing. Are you brave enough to sing?