Guilt is a Lie

19 05 2010

Years ago a wise woman told me she didn’t believe in the word lazy. She felt that if you didn’t do something there was probably a reason. And I feel that’s true. I can see that sometimes those reasons aren’t positive – depression, for instance, has kept me “lazy” a lot in my life – but no matter how I think about it, the supposed laziness is the result of some imbalance. It is never true sloth.

I don’t know that I can explain it because my mind works in weird and wonderful ways, but that philosophy somehow led me to think about guilt and how it’s all bullshit.

Today my son sat in story time quietly listening to the stories, completely engaged. But he wasn’t always engaged that way, in fact it was only in the last six months or so that he was ready for story time, despite the fact that his sister sat quietly engaged from the tender age of two. And the thing is that I used to feel guilty that he wasn’t ready for story time. WTF? Our society is so rooted in literacy (which is wonderful) that I took on the guilt of one who doesn’t expose their children to literature despite the fact that I do and the fact that my son was simply being himself. I hung on to this guilt when I truly had no control over the reasons for it.

A few months ago I read a blog entry proposing that Mommy Guilt is really a natural defense to do the right thing and that we should embrace it and follow our guilt. While I know what the writer was getting at, I can’t help feeling that such an entry is leading us further into this bullshit path away from our instincts. Take, for instance, a woman raising children in a community that embraces the teachings of Ezzo. Her instincts tell her not to let her baby cry, but she will feel guilt if she follows them.

Perhaps at one time guilt was Nature’s way of speaking to a person. Or perhaps it was man-made to begin with. But in any case it’s a horrible and completely useless emotion now. And I have spent too much of my life entrenched in it. Over religion, parenting, relationships, things I should be doing, things I shouldn’t be doing – I took on guilt and wallowed in it, drowning. These days I have shed the cloak of guilt and I refuse to take it on anymore. If it creeps in, I evaluate it. If it’s about something I should be doing, I either do it or I determine where the “laziness” stems from and I give myself a break. Guilt has no hold over me. And I feel so free.

Recently, with the aforementioned negativity in my life, I have been handed a new garment of guilt. And so I threw it on the ground and stomped on it. I won’t wear it. They can, if they like, but they cannot expect me to.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other emotions I cannot release. Sorrow is the heaviest at this point. But with guilt involved, it would be magnified, far too much to bear.

And I feel so blessed to have learned this lesson. To be free of that sucking mud which holds me down. Today, I can walk on, guilt free.




4 responses

19 05 2010

Excellent post Bonnie.
I think the time you spent wallowing in it though was valid and important. Don’t regret that because you would not be able to Understand it so much and would not be able to so clearly Articulate that in this way that is so helpful to others. It was the time for wallowing. As hard and horrible as the wallowing was, you completely were there and now you can completely leave it behind.

19 05 2010
bethany actually

I think some types of guilt are valid, when it’s truly our conscience pricking us over that person we cheated or stole from or whatever. But I think you’re right that many, many kinds of guilt are manufactured by society and peer pressure to try and conform us into doing the “accepted” thing because it used to be a survival thing. When we’re hunter-gatherers living on the plains and the wolves are out to eat our babies, it’s easier for the herd to survive if we’re all conforming to the herd mentality and doing what’s expected of us. Or something like that. But now, we don’t need most of that guilt, much of which is laid on us because other people want to manipulate us into doing things for them.


Oh! I also had something to say about a completely different part of this post. Three of my good friends who are or were elementary-school teachers, have all at one time or another asked me delicately probing questions about how it’s going with homeschooling Annalie. All three of them are personality types that are all about following schedules and lists and being organized; I am not so much that way. I get the sense that they’re all concerned that we’re not following any kind of curriculum, and that I’m not worried about making sure Annalie can read all the words on the list of One Hundred Words Every Kindergartener Should Be Able To Read. I do my best to reassure them that Annalie’s learning and enjoying it, I mention the museums we’ve been to lately and the fact that Annalie figured out, on her own, that if she needs 1 1/2 cups of sugar and she’s using a 1/2 cup measure than she needs three halves, and then I change the subject.

Annalie’s in kindergarten, so I don’t think it’s vital at this point that we buckle down and learn how to diagram sentences and use the FOIL method to simplify equations, you know? She’s ENJOYING the learning she’s doing. Is she reading much yet? No, not really. CAN she read? Yes, she can. For some reason she’s not quite ready to admit it, or it hasn’t totally clicked in her brain yet. She only reads if she’s in the right mood and the stars are aligned just so. But you know, I feel like pushing her would be unhelpful at this point. So what if she’s six and she’s “smart enough” to be reading already? We read every day, and she writes thank-you notes and labels her drawings for fun, and she reads random words on signs or the TV or the computer screen all the time. She will read, really read, when she’s ready. If she were in school it would likely be a problem that she wasn’t reading fluently yet. But I’m confident that she will read in her own time, and she’ll have much more positive feelings about it this way.

Uh. I wrote a book. Sorry. 🙂

19 05 2010

Yeah, I see that Bethany. When you’ve done something wrong guilt is valid and prompts you to make it right. But then it’s guided by your conscience. The other sorts of guilt are not. I think that’s the difference. Thanks for clarifying.

And ITA with you about Annalie and her education. I’ve heard some of the moms I love say things like, “I may not be an expert in XYZ, but I am an expert in my child.” You guys are awesome.

Claire, you are right of course. I’m still resentful that it was forced upon me, but I see that it has a purpose and I suppose someday the resentment will fade.

20 05 2010

Jayce *still* can’t sit through a storytime. Sigh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: