So I found myself in bit of a melancholy mood this evening and as usual began to analyze the cause. Then reprimanded myself as I ate something I thought I shouldn’t have. Then I continued to procrastinate cleaning up the dishes and started beating myself up over that too. Then I tried to distract myself long enough to do the dishes as I began to dream about what I would be doing right now if I could do anything I wanted (if money and logistics were not an issue). As I dreamed I found myself again giving myself a guilt trip because I kept thinking of all the “shoulds”.
In my mind guilt and sin are the main robbers of joy. They’re connected obviously, and for good reason. But I can also see how they can cause problems in and of themselves. Even if a person does not feel guilty about doing something wrong they will not feel joy because they’ve hardened themselves enough that they won’t feel (or acknowledge) guilt so thus they will not be able to feel joy either. I think the same holds true for guilt. We can feel guilty even when we’ve done nothing wrong simply because there is an expectation set in our mind that says what we are doing is “wrong”.
I actually thought of this earlier today when I began to scold my 3 yr. old for getting into my scone batter for the 100th time (yes, I exaggerate). Then the thought came to me, is this REALLY something I need to make a big deal about? And even if I do need her to stop do I need to make her feel GUILTY about it? Isn’t there another way? So I explained to her that I needed her to move so I could finish getting the scones ready and when they were done she could have one. There you have it, she moved, no harm, no foul.
Do things always go this smoothly when I try to be reasonable, rather than reprimanding? Nope. Is there no place for guilt in the realm of discipline? No, I think guilt is a very useful and necessary part of discipline. People need to know when they’ve done something wrong and guilt can be an excellent indicator of that. But, I don’t think it needs to be a primary tool for parenting. I also see that many kids today do not answer as well to the “guilt-trip”.
I’m no expert but I see a difference in kids of this generation. They are more intense, smarter, innovative, and fearless. I’m finding children now-a-days answer better to love, compassion, respect, and logic. If they know you love them, that you are trying to understand them and you think they are important, they will listen and if you’re being fair or at least honest they will usually oblige. Besides, I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling guilty every time they start to feel happy just because they’ve had an unrealistic expectation placed inside their mind, by ME.
Here’s the thing. I’m tired of being robbed of joy simply because I think I “should” have done something else. Maybe I should have. Does that make it “wrong”? I’m not talking about morality here. I’m saying, do I have to be robbed of the pleasure of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just cause “I shouldn’t eat that.”, do I have to be robbed of the peace that comes from writing in my journal simply because “I should have done the dishes first.”, do I have to be robbed of the happiness I feel from actually sitting down and having a real conversation with my husband or watching a movie with him just because, “I should have mopped first and I should iron while I’m watching.” If I’m not degrading myself or anyone else by doing it than kick the guilt to the curb and feel the joy!
P.S. Don’t worry. The dishes will still be there when you’re done…..