It’s difficult to be a parent, to have a relationship, just to be a person in a world with other people sometimes. We all mess up, do and say things without thinking or out of emotion that we later regret. It’s just us. People. Tattered and torn. It’s what we sometimes do. Unfortunately.
Sometimes, we get stuck in the regret of our less than perfect moments. That guilt can hang around in our head as a constant reminder of our failures. As a parent, I think that is particularly true. If you are a mom, there is even a term for it—Mommy Guilt. (That in and of itself bothers me, but that’s another story for later.) A lot of people have been writing about mommy guilt lately, about what it is, what it means, and what we should be doing with it. Some articles have been constructive and honest, but there is also a disturbing trend, an ugly deceit, that has somehow crept its way into the conversation—it encourages women to embrace the mommy guilt, to give it a home in their daily thoughts, and to be glad it’s there because it is a great reminder that you love your child.
…WHAT?! Surely no one… but yes, over 60,000 women “liked” first one then other articles I read agreeing that yes, embracing the guilt made sense and was a positive thing to do. Over 60,000 women. I felt physically ill.
A simple search of the word guilt renders synonyms like burden, condemnation, self-doubt, feelings of unworthiness, and conviction. Those don’t seem particularly healthy. Measured against God’s Word, Isaiah says that unworthiness, or “unrighteousness, is as filthy rags,” which translates literally into filthy garments (Is 64:6). Ummm, not the image of something I want to embrace and hold close to me. A filthy rag is something I get rid of.
You see guilt, real regret, debilitates us with reminders of our failures, painting them in vivid detail with accusations of “You know better…,” “You should have…,” “You didn’t…” Making guilt our life partner, making daily space for him in our minds and emotions is crippling. Embracing guilt of any kind does not put the emotion into its proper perspective or make peace with it. Embracing guilt is without hope. And it is without peace. It creates a condemning cycle that just creates more guilt.
And if you are child of God, a co heir with Christ, feeling unworthy is not the kind of life that you were called to live. Philippians 3:9 says that in Christ we don’t have our own righteousness/worthiness, which is from the law, i.e. following all of the rules and doing all of the right things, but through our acceptance of Christ through faith, we have HIS righteous/worthiness! In other words, even when we mess up, we don’t have to be plagued by guilt because it is not our actions that make us a worthy person or parent. It is the finished work of Christ.
Just in case that slipped by, it is not our actions that make us a worthy person or parent. It is the finished work of Christ that makes us worthy. Everyday. In everything. It is what He completed by dying on the cross that allows us to live everyday free of guilt, free of burdens, free of condemnation. “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh (emotions are a part of your flesh), but according to the Spirit . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…”-Romans 8:1-2
Some may say, “Well that is for when we get to heaven.” No, God redeemed this life and the next life. His sacrifice was not a partial one; it was a COMPLETE one.
So what do we do when these guilty feelings come a’knockin’? Because they do.
- First, we need to know that having an emotion is okay, but wallowing in it is not. So when something happens or when reflecting on an event, if our immediate response is to feel badly, that is fine. But we should not stay there in that emotion any longer than it takes us to recognize it.
- We need to counter that emotion by seeing ourselves in Christ and identifying with Him and who He has made us through His finished work on the cross instead of identifying ourselves by what we do.
- If we have actually done something that we shouldn’t have, then we acknowledge that it was a mistake, decide that we don’t want to do it again, and make the honest commitment to do something different the next time. This is what repentance looks like. Repent means to “turn away from.” Repent does not mean to grovel and beat yourself up in order to prove how badly you feel.
- Instead of continuing to dwell on where we think we failed with our children, we choose to meditate on what God has to say about us (this includes us and our kids—do you know all of the wonderful things God thinks about you and put in his Word?). We can also remember our triumphs with our kids. This is walking out Philipians 4:8 and 2 Corinthians 10:5. Countering contrary emotions and debilitating thoughts with the Word of God is called “casting down our imaginations” (2 Corinthians 10:5). This means that we choose to hold Gods’ Word higher and to be more true than our emotions or the events of the day. We choose to believe one and discount the other.
If we truly understand our identity in Christ, we can stand and say NO when those nasty condemning thoughts come creeping in to niggle at the back of our minds and steal our joy. We can proclaim that we are the righteousness in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21), that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), that we are supernaturally equipped to be the parent our children need us to be! We are enough; they have enough, and Jesus Christ is more than enough (Romans 5:17).
God has called us to a life of joy and peace, not self-doubt and burdens of past mistakes. Unfortunately, the battle with guilt is probably one that we will have more than once. But the Good News is that we don’t have to embrace guilt or any other crippling emotion in order to deal with life’s ups and downs. Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring us into a right relationship with Him. Being a member of his family means that you are well-equipped to do the job put before you! And that includes being an awesome parent!
If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then there is no better time to do it than now. God’s sweet grace is waiting.
God’s Word has so much to say about peace, hope, and success. Below are just a few places you can continue to read about them.
- Philipians 4: 4-9
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- Deuteronomy 30:19
- Psalm 32:11, 40:16, 68:3, 70:4
- Hebrews 1:9, 10:22
- John 14:27
- Galatians 5:22
- Romans 8:33, 37
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Photo Credits: Melissa Witcher and Carolyn