Gut Checking Guilt

Photo Oct 05, 18 30 08

Guilt is like a black cloud obscuring the sunny day. 

Sticks and stones may break bones, says the familiar playground rhyme. While words may never hurt, (that’s a lie) guilt can gut punch event the strongest individual.

I’ve had several conversations about guilt this weekend. All related in some way to the foster/adoption journey, but each involving other parts of our daily lives. The common thread is the intense negativity of guilt.

It involves nothing good at all.

Guilt is Godless. For our family, Christian faith is a central pillar. One thing I’ve had to relearn in the past year or so is that guilt never comes from God. It comes from people. Guilt is a weapon of petty people using you as a pawn to further their own agenda. Paul encourages us in Romans that there’s no condemnation in Jesus. If only we actively remembered that more often.

Guilt doesn’t love you. It doesn’t save you. It doesn’t heal you. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t build community. It doesn’t help anyone.

Guilt is Gunk. I had to replace a toilet last week. Reaching under the tank to loosen a locknut, I encountered gunk. So gross. No matter how many times I washed my hands, I still felt it and smelled it in my mind. Guilt is like that. It’s sticky. It’s stinky. It permeates you.

Guilt bonds to your mind and your life. It ensnares you to servitude of something meaningless… except in the guilt-givers own mind. You feel like you owe it something. It covers all your thinking and reasoning. And we are better than that.

Guilt is Grinding. It starts with turning down the radio in the car. You thought you heard something. Maybe you did? Days, then weeks pass. Yeah, something’s not right. But what? You listen closer to figure it out. The mechanic doesn’t here it. It then becomes all you can think about. All you can spend your time on. Until you finally let it go.

That’s guilt. It slowly encompasses your entire life. Doing whatever it takes not to feel it becomes your sole mission. It clouds your judgment. It steals your joy. It muddies your relationships. It puts shackles on your brain and strangleholds your life.

For foster and adoptive parents like me, the “if onlys” become the most tangible evidence that guilt has taken over. If only I spent more time with my child. If only I handled that discipline situation differently. If only I wrote a better email to the social worker. If only I put on my trauma lens today. If only I helped them practice their coping skills… If only this, if only that.

Stop it.

Stop it to you and stop it to me. The hardest thing is to stop feeding the guilt monster and start living life. Don’t let it have any more of a hold that it already does. And yeah, that’s harder to do that it is to type.

So lets try… one step at a time.

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Toilet Tank Thinking

Photo Jan 23, 21 23 09Let’s talk about the potty, shall we? There are three things the toilet tank should never be.

First, a photo gallery. Aunt Lois should never be staring at you as you exercise bladder management. Second. A beach. (sorry mom). Third, a theological library.

You know the books I’m talking about. They’re usually about 2×3 inches with padded covers. They’re usually targeted toward grandmothers and purchased in hospital gift shops. They have cutesy titles like “Pearls from Proverbs”- ok that’s an actual one passed down in our family.

Their intention is good. Their words are true. But oftentimes, they’re really not all that helpful. Why am I talking about this? This analogy came up talking to a friend today about the responses people give when you share real thoughts.

We’re all guilty of it. You ask someone how they’re doing or how they’re feeling. You don’t expect them to say anything but “everything’s good” or “fine.” If we’re being real, many times our brains have already moved to the next thing.

Once in a while, someone says something honest and you’re caught off guard. You complete a quick analysis of their honest moment and recoil with something like, “all things work together.” Or, “when God closes a door, He opens a window.”


True, yes. Encouraging, maybe. Helpful, not always. Sometimes the better answer is silence. Before Job’s friends went sideways with just about the worst advice in history, they sat silently with their friend. It was an incredibly smart move.

I know some foster and adoptive parents who’ve recently experienced difficult situations. I’m close with friends who are in a chapter of life with a lot of questions.

When people ask how we’re doing, or how our kids are, I often give a pat answer. Sometimes, it’s because I can’t disclose the answer to their question for various reasons. Other times, I know they don’t honestly care.

But when I blurt out a moment of reality, I almost instantly regret it. Usually, the response is something I’d find in a toilet tank book. A short, sound bite statement to tie up the situation with a bow and end the conversation.

Whether it’s our friends in a season of doubt, fellow fosters dealing with difficult circumstances or others that want to celebrate life’s high moments, there’s one thing in common: a desire for honestly and authenticity.

At times, the best support means leaving the pithy statements to rest in the little pastel books. Let your friends know you’re ready to walk with them through their questions, their doubts and their hard days. Celebrate the mountaintop moments and joys and milestones.

Let them share freely, without redirection, without a pearly closing statement. Embrace the authenticity of their struggle. Listen. Don’t feel compelled to dump advice. You’ll find a friendship closer that some of your family members.

Oh, the best thing to adorn the top of that toilet tank? Little rolls of paper.

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3 Reasons I Foster (And Adopted)

Just finished this week’s This Is Us family therapy session. (The best show on TV in years.) There’s a joke in my house that I don’t like to feel the feels. Well, tonight’s episode brought all the feels. Continue reading

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Sweet Home Alabama

We didn’t know that our trip to Alabama last year was going to be the start of our new foster care journey. In fact, we didn’t know the trip would be one of the most important in our lives.  Continue reading

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O Night Divine

The star atop our Christmas Tree has been crooked for a few weeks now. We don’t plan to fix it. There’s something poetic about it. Our lives are a little bananas. A little bit chaos. A whole lot of perfect. Continue reading

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