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 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.