Getting Rid of Guilt

just reading my book, relaxing a bitI can’t remember a time I didn’t love stories.  Learning to read was a glorious thing.  Besides for riding horses, I can’t think of too many things I enjoyed as much as reading.  Reading stories about horses?  Even better!  I think the only thing that could’ve topped that would be reading stories about horses while riding a horse.

One of my most profound early encounters with guilt centered around reading in second grade.  I remember our reading book.  It was green.  It had a great story about a girl riding her horse in Central Park.  I’m sure it had many other stories, but that’s the one I remember most vividly.  I can even recall some of the illustrations.

Reading in second grade was something of an obsession.  I was good at it, and I enjoyed it.  My teacher let me read ahead as far as I wanted to as long as I did the corresponding workbook pages.  This was the double-edged sword that eventually inflicted much pain and anguish.

I didn’t see the purpose of  reading workbooks.  In my seven year old opinion they amounted to busy work.  I saw them as something teachers created so those of us who loved reading could slow down long enough for the reading indifferent to catch up.

Because I had the freedom to go at my own pace part of the time, I took advantage of it.  I read, and read, and read.  I just didn’t do any of the workbook pages, and my teacher didn’t check.

Suddenly it was the end of the grading period and I had to turn in my workbook the next day.   I took it home and tried to get as much done as I could.  I tried to stay up past my bedtime to work on it.  I tried to hide my unused workbook from my parents.

A slick little kid I was not.  They made me go to bed.  They called me on my sudden weepiness.  They made me fess up to my teacher that I’d been doing half the required work.  They didn’t give me a “Poor baby!” or a “What an unreasonable teacher!”

I’m not exactly sure what happened.  I didn’t fail second grade because of an empty workbook in the first quarter.  I did make it a point to get those pages done with every assignment after that.

The guilt that glommed on to me way back when isn’t any different than the guilt that’s ready to jump on my back today, tomorrow, or the next time I do something wrong.  It’s the same guilt that sent Adam and Eve running from God in the Garden of Eden.  The process of shaking it off remains the same, too.

The process is far from complicated, but it’s not necessarily easy.

It starts with admitting I’m responsible for a wrong, for a hurt, for not measuring up.   I have to admit it to myself and then to those who are affected by my actions–or lack of actions.  If it’s appropriate, I need to ask forgiveness of those I’ve hurt.  Next,  I need to do what I can to make things right.

It’s not just my idea either.  God says it’s the way things need to go.  It’s the way to be reconciled to each other.  It’s the way to be reconciled to him.

The only problem with being reconciled with a holy God is there’s not a thing we can do to make things right.  We can and need to confess how we’ve fallen short of his standards.    The good news is that God made a way—Jesus.  He wants to be reconciled with us.  It’s not an impossibility.*

No matter what I’ve done—no matter what you’ve done—there’s no reason to live with guilt.  My advice?  Get rid of it as soon as you can.

photo courtesy of brennaval

I’m participating in Faith Barista’s Faith Jam.  Every week she’s asking other bloggers to “jam like musicians” on a faith related topic.  Today’s post is my riff on “Shaking off Guilt.” If you’re interested in the notes others added to this Faith Jam, go check out her site and follow the links.)

*Want to know more?  Read about it here . . . especially 4-10.

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7 Responses to “Getting Rid of Guilt”

  1. judyNovember 3, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    Seems to me that today’s generation of young people rarely are held responsible for anything, nor do they admit or take responsbility for stuff. So commonly heard is the comment, “Not my fault”. Gotta admit fault before one can right the wrong….maybe that is part of what is wrong with today’s world??

    Anyway, on a more positive note, I could TOTALLY relate to your second grade self. I was the same. My teacher also allowed us to read ahead as much as we wanted. However, rather than workbooks pages, which we did not have in a small boarding school in West Africa, we were required to write our own stories each week. No limits, no specific subjects, we just had to write something. Mine were usually about girls and their horses…….With the invention of electronic communication nowadays, I mourn the loss of the written word by every day folks and I am thankful I had a teacher who cultivated writing skills along with encouraging my love of reading.

    You and I are even more alike than I thought….no wonder I miss you dreadfully!!

  2. Jeri TairaNovember 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    It’s so beautiful how He receives us back with open arms. You are so right. We cannot make things right. Only He can. Turning back to Him makes it right. Confession makes it right again.

    It’s such a pleasure to find your post through the Jam 😀

  3. shelleyNovember 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    Sheryl, this might be your best post yet (and you know I have a few other favorites!). Thank you for this insight into your soul, for the reflection that invites a closer look at myself, and for the advice to get rid of guilt as quickly as possible. PS — what a wise 7 year old your were and how you’ve become even better with age!

  4. Lisa notes...November 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

    Good advice—get rid of guilt as soon as you can! Thanks for sharing your story. Isn’t it funny how things we did “wrong” as a child still stick around in our memories? I can remember a similar incident myself.

  5. Ginger HuntNovember 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks, Sheryl. My mind is muddy tonight because Kevin will be arriving in about an hour, but you have been so gracious to remind me that I am loved. Hope you have a wonderful Friday.

  6. Faith Barista | BonnieNovember 5, 2010 at 9:21 am #

    A lot of the guilt I carry have been learned responses from chlldhood. Now, I’m learning to live under my new adopted parent of Abba Father, who loves me beyond understanding… and never punishes me but simply sets me free. Love this post — brings out wonderful reflection.. leading to God’s grace! Thanks for adding this to the jam, Sheryl!

  7. DonnaNovember 6, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Sheryl, I like the simplicity of the truth: get rid of guilt as soon as we can!

    The picture of the reader on the horse made me smile.

    Pleasure to learn from you!

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