I've talked with several girlfriends lately who are struggling with guilt... Mommy guilt. Survivor's guilt. All sorts of guilt. I've written this post in my head a couple of times, but didn't know for sure if I'd actually publish it until I cracked open my Shelter book a few minutes ago. I was prepared to get started on Unit 6, but when I saw the title I felt like perhaps I'm meant to prime your hearts a little first....
The title is "Letting Go of Shame and Guilt."
That said... I'm going to kick the unit off with this blog post about my girlfriends' struggles with guilt. It is often easier to see wrong-thinking in others - you know, that whole objectivity thing...
My precious friend has cancer. At diagnosis, she had it in four different spots in her abdomen and chest. She has cancer, no question. She's been going through chemo treatments for a few months now. She was told to expect a great deal of nausea, complete hair loss right away, and dramatic weight loss. She has undergone a few surgeries, had a port placed inside her chest, has received a few blood transfusions, is receiving daily shots in her stomach to prevent blood clots, and has at least one medical appointment every single week. She has not experienced terrible nausea; however, she is certainly not feeling completely well. She is not completely bald, but she has lost more than half of her hair. And, rather than lose weight, she has gained it! Her doctor has suggested she limit her diet even more than it's already been limited (due to bacterial concerns, there are certain fruits and veggies that were stricken from her diet months ago). My friend is suffering... She is self-conscious about her hair loss. She is tired and doesn't feel well. She nervously awaits test results like every other cancer patient. She has scars and bruising and an device implanted into her chest. She is self-conscious about her weight gain. She has an emotional need to talk to other cancer survivors, but she feels "guilty" because she hasn't suffered the darkest extremes of the typical side effects. She keeps saying, "It could be so much worse. I really shouldn't be complaining." She is minimizing what she is going through, merely because "it could be worse". Out of guilt, she is not allowing herself to reach out to other cancer survivors for support.
I have another dear friend who is a working mom. Like every other good mother, she readily sacrifices at every turn to meet the needs of her children. She prepares well-balanced meals, does homework with them, plays with them, knows all of their friends and their friends' families. She never misses an appointment or activity. She nourishes them in every way. Her kids love her and she loves them. The kids know they are well-loved, but their mother beats herself up because she has to work. It crushes me every time she says, "Stay-at-home-moms are the best! Such good moms. I'm just not as good a mom because I work!" She is totally blaming herself and finding herself guilty of failure merely because she has to work. She should ask her kids - they will tell her the truth.
And one last friend who's been on my mind is the mother of a child born with a medical condition. While pregnant she took her vitamins, ate well, got some exercise... Did everything that an expectant mother can do to ensure the health and wellness of her baby. When her daughter was diagnosed with her condition, the mother's first words were, "What did I do wrong?" And even as my friend explained her daughters condition to me (years after diagnosis), the mother still used the words "....it's just something I passed on. Something I must have or carry or did." Let me tell you - this mother did NOTHING wrong. Frankly, if we believe the words of our Heavenly Father, we are assured that this precious little girl's creation was His doing. "You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13. And while we may not know or understand exactly what His plan is, we are assured that he has a plan and that it is perfect. "For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 My dear friend did nothing to cause her daughter to be born with this condition, but she blames herself.
As we get ready to start this unit on letting go of shame and guilt, I want to encourage you to pray through your own thoughts and beliefs. Listen closely to the words that you say. Hold them up to the light of God's truth. How do your beliefs about yourself measure up? Where do you see wrong-thinking? Do you need to let go of shame and guilt?