The Good of Guilt

Recently I did something that I’m not particularly proud of. What did I do? Nunya business, honestly. I don’t want the focus of the post to be on my scandals.* What I do want to make it about is the guilt associated with my scandals.

The next day after my scandalous behavior I woke up with that sickening  guilt that churns around in your gut relentlessly. When I sat down to read my biblio and pray, I felt like a traitorous infidel.

Then my ego-preservation-mode kicked into overdrive, and I thought of so many reasons why what I did wasn’t all that bad. My mind performed some impressively creative feats of self-justification, and one side of me was like, “Chillax, yo! So many people have done so much worse!” but another side of me was like “Nah, you dumb.

Then my self-disgust-mode kicked into overdrive, and I felt a strong compulsion to do some penance. My mind generated several paths of punition for me to complete until I (hopefully God, too) would feel okay about me again. One side of me was like “You are a disgusting worm, and now you must roll around penitently in the dirt like a worm, but another side of me was like, “What’s done is done, brah.

So I sat there for a while, battling myself. And both of mes were kinda right, and both of mes were kinda wrong.

Then a few thoughts struck me as I sat there like a Guilty Gabriella –

  • One of the reasons I didn’t want to pray was that I didn’t feel I deserved for God to give me anything. Uh-oh, legalism-o! Apparently my heart had swallowed a sneaky nugget of self-righteousness dunked in entitlement sauce without my conscious consent.
  • This deep sense that my misdeed deserves punishment is rooted in a truth, but an incomplete one. My actions did demand a punishment, but I wasn’t the one that would take it.** It was such a discomfiting idea – that immediately after I had done this legitimately foolish deed, I was good.  No flagellation required.
  • It’s much more difficult to judge people when I remember how… delicious… sin can be. The humility of receiving grace takes the wind out of the judgiest of sails.
  • I wanted to tell someone about what I did, right away. And I didn’t want to tell someone who would pat me on the head and tell me I is kind, smart, and important (but I also didn’t to tell someone who would look aggrieved and spread this “prayer request” to the rest of the gossip girls).

In toto: Guilt is one of the worst feelings to ever assault the human mind, body, and soul. It’s not appropro when it causes you to obsess over your own badness, but neither is it always an inappropro feeling that should be dismissed immediately. It can 1) expose our general sense of entitlement, 2) awaken us to the heart-twisty kindness of Jesus, 3) give us grace towards others, 4) motivate us to confess (which ultimately helps keep us accountable in the future so we will be less likely to turn right around and repeté).

Don’t try to dismiss your guilt, but don’t wallow around in shame, either. Use it as an opportunity to become all the more in awe of and thankful for the kindness and necessity of Jesus.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Don’t let your imagination run too wild. If you need something concrete to tack onto this story- just pretend that I threw away recyclable plastic in the trash… yah, that was it *laughs nervously*

** “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Cor 5:21

 

A sincere appeal for the widespread adoption of FIDO

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FIDO – Forget* It and Drive On was introduced to me by my dear sister.. Danetté.. when I was in the throes of despair over some past event. I can’t remember the exact details, but I was upset about some interpersonal drama. Something like… “Why would he do that?” Or “Do you think she hates me now?” Or “Arrrggg I shouldn’t have said  that.” After listening to me with the patience of a serene gazelle, she told me flatly : “Clarice, let me introduce you to the concept of FIDO.”

Danetté then proceeded to explain a concept so shocking and revolutionary, it shook me to the #gallocore. And that is this – when something happens that’s negative, and there’s no clear action to take.. or you’ve already taken the action and it didn’t have the intended effect – instead of agonizing about it for days, weeks, months to come, Forget It and Drive On.

It’s so simple, but the simplicity is what makes it beautiful. Someone hurt your feels? FIDO. Worried that Bob overheard you telling Jim you don’t like Brenda? FIDO. Wished you hadn’t gone to grad school but went to acting school instead? FIDO.

I urge you all, in whatever walk of life with whatever anxieties you have (that you really can’t do anything about – I’m not talking about FIDOing your job tomorrow or FIDOing a friendship in which you need to ask forgiveness) to implement FIDO with the liberalism of a double Oreo fried in chocolate  sauce.

You’re welcome, world. But actually, thank Danetté. Or actually, thank whoever told Danetté. Or actually, I’m almost certain she heard it from someone in the  military,  SO THANK AMERICA!

— editorial note —
*I changed the actual acronym for the sake of propriety, but the core of the idea was maintained.