I don’t know about you, but I’m always feeling guilty about something. I don’t exactly know why, nor do I know that it is particularly helpful to feel this way, especially when it’s a LOT of guilt and it becomes all-consuming. But I do because:
People were counting on me, so I should feel guilty.
I’m always late for cub scouts. Always. Like 15 minutes late. And the sad thing is, not only is another boy (besides my own) counting on me to get him there on time, but I’m one of the den leaders. I try so hard to get there on time, but it seems like the harder I try, the later I am.
People are mad at me, so I should feel guilty.
Wether or not I have done something wrong, if people aren’t happy with me, or something I’ve done or said, I feel bad. I feel guilty for kicking the kid out of my Primary class who was sitting on other kids, because his mom might feel bad. But what about the sat-upon kids? If I leave him in there I’ll feel guilty about that too. It’s a no-win situation.
I messed up, so I should feel guilty.
Sometimes I do things wrong. Like run into people with my stroller at Disneyland. It’s not a huge wrong, but it’s still my bad. I feel bad. Like, really bad. Probably “badder” than I need to.
I can’t do it all, so I should feel guilty.
When Preemie was born, she came 3 months early and was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for 2 1/2 months. I, of course, had to go home a few days after she was born and could visit her as much as I wanted, but I had 3 other kids at home, one being a 10 1/2 month old. Whenever I was at home I felt guilty for not being with Preemie and whenever I was with Preemie, I felt guilty for not being with Princess and the brothers. I’m not talking about the kind of guilt you feel when you accidentally step on someone’s foot, or the kind of guilt that leaves once you rationalize that you are doing your best. I’m talking about the kind of guilt you might feel if you had left your children on a street corner and driven away. I felt like either way I was neglecting my children and there was no way I could give them all the basic necessities of life. I mean, their physical needs were taken care of, but what about being with their mother? I was tormented by this guilt. It never left me and it made me crazy. Thankfully I had wonderful friends at church who would watch Princess while brothers were at school so I could go visit Preemie. But it didn’t make the guilt go away. It just made it possible for me to feel more guilty about neglecting Princess while I visited Preemie.
My mistakes affect others, so I should feel guilty.
When I wake up late and get the boys to school late, and they miss out on the popcorn party for those who are never late, then my kids are suffering for my mistakes.
I’m a bad example for my kids, so I should feel guilty.
When I make mistakes I am showing my kids how NOT to act. And that is so embarrassing.
I didn’t do what I think I should do, so I should feel guilty.
I have a terrible cold. I’m even on asthma medication for it. And during said cold, I tried to run 6 miles and only made it 3. Another day I tried to run 8 miles and only made it 2. Naturally. I was feeling under-the-weather. But of course I felt guilty that I couldn’t beat my body into submission. Hubby said to me that I looked “black and blue, emotionally,” like I had been beating myself up, and I had been. If I can’t make myself run, then I’m weak.
I exist, so I should feel guilty.
Have you ever met a person (or been the person) who always apologizes? I mean for EVERYTHING! It’s like they feel guilty for even existing. And if you call them out on their incessant” I’m sorrying” they just say, “I’m sorry!” I feel bad for these people. And I’m kind of one of them. I’ve met people who are more extreme than me, but I apologize all the time. Even when we’re at Disneyland in a crowd and someone bumps into ME, I apologize. And this happens over and over again.
Feeling guilty will motivate me do better next time.
How can I ever improve without the ever-present Guilt.
God wants me to feel guilty.
Right? Isn’t that what life is all about: obedience to God’s commandments? And guilt when we fail to perform?
Even though I have all these “good” reasons to feel guilty. It’s not very productive. I know this because I experience a lot of guilt, but very little productivity. If feeling guilty is not productive, then surely it’s not God that wants me to feel guilty. I can’t speak for other religions because I don’t know them well enough, but where in all of Christendom does it say to feel guilty? In what book of scripture? The Bible? The Book of Mormon? All the ones I know of say that we should ask forgiveness and/or make restitution. This implies that we can be forgiven. And move on. God doesn’t sit there dwelling on our faults. Whenever I pray about feeling guilty, the answer I get from God is not to wallow in my guilt, but to forget it and try a little harder next time. Not even a lot harder, just a little.
Even if you look up guilt in the Bible or the Book of Mormon, it talks about guilt as something that grave sinners have. Like, when we meet him we will be painfully aware of all of our guilt. And common sense tells me he’s not talking about the time I yelled at my kids. And when I commit a sin and pray for forgiveness, I feel an urge to hurry and make it right, not an urge to wallow in my guilt. I usually feel like wallowing when I don’t pray and get into my own self-loathing-induced funk. And God doesn’t loathe me, no matter how many times I eat the whole bag of cookies.
Guilt is counterproductive. It just creates a downward spiral. The only way I know of to get out of the spiral is to forgive and forget. Forgive yourself and forget it ever happened. Move on a try a little harder. That’s really all anyone can ask from you anyway. And I think that’s all that God asks of us.