Battling False Guilt
By Adriana Hayes
Mom Guilt. Self-guilt. False guilt.
While the title we attach to it can be different, we all struggle with it. There have been times where I’ve allowed this guilt to wreak havoc on my day and my soul, so I’m confident that there are other women who need to hear some of what God’s been teaching me about this.
I also want to shatter any false notion that I have this “living a life with chronic pain” thing figured out. I do not. I repeat, I do not.
But I do have a God who is abundantly giving in both the areas of forgiveness and grace. And so do you.
There are a number of examples that I could give you of times that I have spiraled into false guilt. They usually relate to being a mom and a wife, and they hit the hardest during the summer months. Promise is off of school, she is an only child, and so the role of “playmate” oftentimes falls on me. Living in Wisconsin, we only get about three months of really beautiful, perfect, “play outside,” weather and that’s where I start to slip. Because of my leg braces, I can’t just throw on my flip-flops and run outside with her. I feel guilty that my legs are too weak to wade around in a pool and that I can only swim for so long before my ileostomy bag comes loose. I feel guilty that I can’t bike with Chris and that most afternoons “doing” something with Promise consists of watching a movie together. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately, I feel guilty that they have a wife and mom who always seems to be the exception to “normal.”
And then I get cranky. I get impatient. I get snappy. Before I know it, my good friend false guilt is snuggled up to me on the couch whispering, “Why can’t you be like the moms you see on your Instagram feed?” ... “They’re taking their kids to the state fair on a beautiful day like this” ... “You realize this is going to harm Promise forever, don’t you?” ... “You should get up and fight through the pain” ... “If you had been able to have more kids, Promise would have someone to play with” ... and on and on and on.
I try to combat the messages. I even call in friends for backup, play-date support. But guilt rages on. Guilt about resting and needing help. Guilt about not hosting the play-date. Guilt about not being enough.
And that can be how some of my day’s end. Pretty ugly, right?
But that’s where God steps in. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit who nudges me to go into Promise’s room after she’s asleep, and kiss her on the head. I’m thankful that He doesn’t let me go to sleep without apologizing to Chris for my cranky attitude.
As much as I hate that GUILT has controlled my day, I know that GRACE will redeem my day.
While it’s tempting to let my physical pain be the excuse for being short, un-loving, selfish, and impatient with my family; the truth is that it is no excuse. I am human and sinful. I need to ask for forgiveness for those things, both from God and from my family.
Once I have that taken care of, I can realize that there are also things that guilt has been telling me that I need to ask for forgiveness for that I actually don’t.
I don’t need to feel guilty that I needed a day of rest. I don’t need to feel guilty for arranging a play-date. I don’t need to feel guilty for watching a Christmas movie in July rather than going swimming.
In Being Well When You’re Ill author Marva Dawn says, “God does not demand that we keep up with anyone else. God only asks us to be faithful with who we are [and what He’s given us]—with all our limitations...If we are accusing ourselves, we are outside of God’s will for us, for our Comforter wants us instead to find hope and wellness through grace. Whenever we are made to feel guilty about matters that are unrelated to our actual sinfulness, we know that this sense of blame does not come from God, but from the temptations of the accuser.”
I’m thankful for God’s grace. That His mercies will be new in the morning and that I can (through His strength) attempt to control my attitude, despite the pain that I cannot control—and say goodbye to false guilt.