No More Guilt

Today, I sit in a little cafe in my favorite area of town, drinking my coffee and writing. This is the end of all my ambition: to be right here right now.

Another ambition of mine is to rid the world of guilt. I can’t remember if it was a book, a conversation, or a deeply spiritual experience that prompted my conviction to be done with guilt. But several months ago, I made a decision that I would no longer choose guilt. After an inventory of all of the things I did from guilt, I realized that nothing good ever came from those choices. In fact, I made a lot of very bad decisions when guilt was a part of the equation. And the guilt was just eating me up inside. In other words, if I were to have made a list of the pros and cons of guilt, the pro side was completely blank.

It was like flipping a switch. Now I faced my guilt like it was a choice to drink pure water or a deadly poison. Easy decision. It became so natural to me to choose pure water and I felt so good, so healthy. In conversations with friends, and a few strangers, the topic was often guilt. Maybe it had always been, but suddenly I was noticing that every woman I talked to with would say things like, “I don’t know what to do, I just feel so guilty about…” After a while, I started telling people (even the strangers), “I don’t choose guilt anymore. It was not good for me. If guilt was not a choice for you, what would seem like the right thing to do?”

Life is full of hard and serious and complicated problems, but when guilt is mixed in, those problems become insurmountable. (Side note: I am just giddy because spell check did not underline that word immediately after I typed it!)

Taking a little break to dig two quarters out of my purse and refill my coffee…

Oh, it is so warm and strong. Happy me.

So there I was going along in my happy, guilt-free existence, when my kids came into the house with a chewed up shoe. The only thing I do not adore about my dog is that he chews up everything (and we have been told he will outgrow this). I don’t feel badly if kids take off their shoes in my back yard and they get chewed up (lesson: keep your shoes on). But this was an adult running shoe. Running shoes are expensive. We still don’t know how Schroeder got a hold of that shoe, but regardless, he chewed it until it was just a piece of rubber with some strings hanging on it.

A few days later, one of the little boys who lives behind us, said, “Hey, that is my dad’s shoe.”

Now, this particular dad is the kind of dad you love to have in your neighborhood. He is so kind and so generous and does hundreds of little acts of service for our family every year. He and his family lived in Bosnia and lost EVERYTHING but their lives in the war. Our community is like family to him and he always reminds us of this. When we first met them, he was the only one in his family who spoke English.

I understand that there are situations where you need to makes something right, and I wanted to make this right with our neighbor, BUT I was consumed with guilt. It just smacked me in the face and made its way inside of me. I was poisoned. And I just wanted to make the guilt go away. Because I don’t do guilt!

Before I had even sorted out how to handle this situation, my daughter said that after showing him the shoe, our neighbor told her, “You owe me a shoe!” with a smile on his face. Well, that was all I needed. I bought a $50 Nike gift card and wrote on it “To: Alex From: Schroeder–Sorry about your shoe!” Although $50 is a lot of money to us, at the time it seemed a fair price to pay to get back to my guilt-free living. My kids ran down the hill to deliver my guilt offering.

Moments later, Alex comes marching up our backyard with the card in his hand.

“I sorry about your shoes,” I said with a guilty smile.

He said, “I was just teasing Avery about owing me shoes. My wife is angry with me for kidding with her. I cannot take this card.”

I said, “Well, you have to take it because I feel so badly and it is the only way I will feel okay about Schroeder eating your shoe.”

In his precise English, he said, “This makes me feel shame.”

It was at that moment, I knew the most important reason to not live life from a place of guilt. I cashed in my guilt for $50 and handed it to my neighbor. It did not translate to shoes for him. He received the gift card in the exact spirit that I gave it to him.

And my shame became his.

I am seriously done with guilt. No more of that poison for me. Speaking of poison, I just finished my second cup of coffee and I am really thirsty. My next ambition is going to be to drink more water

Jenny Black

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