Saturday, February 20, 2010

The weight of guilt

Like most women, I walk around carrying quite a bit of guilt - particularly mommy-guilt. Over the past few years as I have journeyed through motherhood with other mom's I have met very few mom's who do not suffer from this condition. It just seems to come with the birth certificate.

We try so hard to make sure we are doing the right thing with our children that often we become overwhelmed. What activities should our little one be in and when should s/he start? How is s/he doing compared to the other kids at preschool? How much should they eat? How much exercise is enough? How many activities are too many? Am I too firm? Am I not firm enough? Do they play well with others? How soon do they need to read, to be taking a foreign language, to be doing AP classes.... AHHHHHHHH! No wonder by the end of the day most of us are surly and raising our voices while we shuttle children from one activity to another and try to prepare healthy and well-balanced meals that will give our children's brain every nutrient it needs?

One of my best friends recently asked me, "how much can you do in one day?" It was a serious question that came from her feelings of inadequecy. She really wanted to know what I thought she should be able to accomplish in one day while juggling responsibilities at work and at home. She felt guilty for not getting the laundry done because she was working. She felt guilty for not giving 150% at work because she needed to take care of her family. This kind of guilt serves no purpose and only makes you feel and do less than your best. Despite what my mother's generation believed, as individual women, we canNOT do it all - or we at least cannot do it all well.

There are many other forms of guilt that all of us carry no matter our age, gender, marital status, or ethnicity. What are you feeling guilty about today?

Being wracked with guilt over decisions you have to make on a daily basis is a useless enterprise. It is a far different cry from feeling guilty for doing emotional or physical harm to your child, spouse, or another living creature.

If the guilt that you carry with you is caused by the first, I want to encourage you to throw off the shackles of guilt that make so many of us feel inadequate and "less-than". If you are making the very best decisions and acting the best way you can in any given moment and it turns out to be incorrect, then you just have to move on. When you lose your patience and you shout at your spouse or kids - apologize and let it go.

God convicts us of our sin but He does not prolong our agony with guilt. When we are on the wrong path, we know it - God's Spirit convicts us of it. When we confess it and ask for forgiveness (from God and the one we have wronged) - it is gone. God does not want us to weigh ourselves down with "I should have's" or feel unlovable. God wants us to let Him work in our lives to heal and redeem our mistakes and give us plenty of hope and joy for the future.

If you are feeling inadequate for your journey and loaded down with guilt, I hope that you will ask God to help you let go of the past. Ask Him to heal wounds that you have both received and created and to give you the tools you need for your daily work - whether it is in or outside the home. Each of us has been tasked by God with a holy vocation. Go into it with prayer each day and allow yourself to be convicted by God's Spirit but not weighed down with the guilt that separates us from others and from God.