I remember swiping a grape from my hometown grocery store’s produce department when I was about 8 or 9. Before the dirty purple sphere made it down my throat, I knew I was destined to burn in hell for stealing. The guilt was so unbearable that I could never again go grocery shopping with my mother without remembering my sin. That was the first and last time I ate fruit that couldn’t be validated with a receipt.
I felt guilty for big things like lying to my mother and coming home after curfew. And little things like shoving stuff under my bed instead of putting it in its proper place.
I didn’t eventually outgrow the guilt. No, no, no. It followed me right into adulthood, like a rabid mouth-foaming monkey on my back.
My hangovers have always consisted of excessive dry mouth, nausea and a heaping side of guilt.
Retail therapy is great until the shame sets in that I paid full price for a clutch that cost more than a ruby-studded suitcase.
My husband has a problem remembering when it’s garbage day. I should have gently reminded him instead of bashing in his head with the stainless steel trashcan.
The girl forgot to grab her lunch box this morning. Again. I should have gone out of my way and personally delivered it to her at school instead of making her eat cafeteria gopher intestines covered in her choice of white or brown gravy.
I shouldn’t have forced the boy to give up his favorite stuffed animal as punishment for being a Grade-A turd today. Who am I? Joan Crawford with a closet full of wire hangers?
Maybe I should return those Little Debbie Fudge Rounds to the grocery store tomorrow because they contain more chemicals than an aerosol can of Axe body spray.
I shouldn’t talk about her. I shouldn’t talk about him. I shouldn’t have gone. I shouldn’t have spoken. I shouldn’t have written that. I shouldn’t have laughed at that. I shouldn’t have committed to that. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have thought that. I shouldn’t have done that. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t.
I should have been nice. I should have smiled. I should have called. I should have gone. I should have spoken. I should have written that. I should have read that. I should have committed to that. I should have said that. I should have thought that. I should have done that. I should. I should. I should.
I’m tired. I’m tired of living my entire life consumed by guilt over what I should or shouldn’t have done.
I did what I did and maybe it wasn’t right. Maybe it was. Maybe I’m not a good wife or mother or friend or Christian or person 100% of the time. Maybe I’m the biggest disaster to walk on two legs…..covered in stubble because I should have shaved and now I feel guilty that my husband gashed his hand open on my sharp knee. Three stitches, dear? Oh, bother. It’s all my fault.
But I’m letting go of the guilt. I’m forgiving myself.
Conviction and condemnation aren’t the same thing. Conviction is a gentle nudge (I believe it comes from God) that corrects us when we’ve done wrong. Conviction puts us back on the right path and encourages lessons to be learned. Condemnation, however, (which I believe does NOT come from God), is a constant reminder of our wrongs. It’s agonizing and relentless guilt on steroids- and I ain’t talkin’ Prednisone. I’m talking that stuff that makes testicles shrink down to the size of marbles.
We can’t live in peace when we are consumed by condemnation. I certainly can’t. I can’t be a good wife or mother or friend or Christian or person if I’m swallowed up in remorse and daily, hourly, minutely reminders of my countless mistakes.
This doesn’t mean that I’m going to start doing what I darn well please without worrying about the outcome or consequences. I’m not completely ridding myself of a guilty conscious. That guilty conscious is probably the only thing that has kept me from burning down the Chuck E. Cheese’s (I shouldn’t have said that. If it actually burns down, I will be the first suspect). But I am making a decision, today, to quit being my own worst enemy.
I can’t keep hating myself for things that aren’t even that serious. I have to allow myself to make mistakes. I can’t second-guess every word I speak or every decision I make, whether it regards my husband, children, finances or hobbies. I can’t continue to go through life feeling like the bad guy. I can’t continue to hang my head in shame and label myself as “World’s Worst _______”.
And you shouldn’t either.
Unless you’re an axe murderer or something.
Then you should feel incredibly guilty *and turn yourself in to local authorities*.
But if you yelled at your kid for setting fire to the couch or you cheated on your diet with a bulk-sized vat of Nutella, then well, don’t beat yourself up about it.
I’m not going to anymore.
“For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”