Women and Happiness Part 2 — Guilt
I was planning to go somewhere else with this next post on why women are unhappy, but a recent conversation with a good friend convinced me that I should start here.
So let’s talk, shall we, about that familiar kill-joy for women everywhere: guilt.
In my previous post, I mentioned that I was struck by a paragraph in Captivating that said that almost every woman has a deep sense that she is failing — and not just failing at what she does, but failing at who she is: a fear that she is not good enough, not beautiful enough, not kind enough, not disciplined enough…or too emotional, too needy, too overbearing, too strong.
The result is guilt, a powerful, consuming emotion that drives us to alternating periods of frantic activity and despondent idleness. We’ve all been there. We’re frantic when it strikes, vowing to never eat processed sugars again, or deep clean the house in a single afternoon, or catch up on all the tasks we’ve been procrastinating for weeks; and then when we run out of steam, which we inevitably do, we slump into the couch, bitter and exhausted, and say, “Screw it. It doesn’t matter anyway.”
Until the next time guilt rears its ugly head and we do it all over again.
I’m not sure why we’re so afflicted, though research has shown that women are much more prone to guilt than men. Regardless of its social or inherent causes, I think at its core, guilt is a spiritual issue — or at least it has profound spiritual implications.
That’s because, like all the fear-based emotions we experience on a daily basis, guilt boils down to a fundamental lack of trust in God.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that as an accusation. If there’s one thing I struggle with, it’s trusting God. But when we strip away the anxiety, the busy-ness, the quiet desperation that guilt produces, we’re left with this undeniable fact:
When we’re feeling guilty, we simply do not trust that who we are is “good enough” for God.
We do not believe that we can be loved…accepted…honored…just the way we are. What’s more, we never even consider that who we are is precisely who God made us to be.
I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that women in particular fight desperately to “measure up” to some arbitrary standard of perfection, physically, socially, sexually, spiritually. We envy those women who seem to have it “all together.” We struggle to make our lives mirror theirs.
It never occurs to us that maybe God didn’t put us down here to conform to some unbending standard of “rightness” — but that perhaps our differences, our idiosyncrasies, our unique gifts (and yes, our unique weaknesses) — are precisely how He planned it.
That our diversity is a beautiful manifestation of His Infinite Majesty.
That in our individuality, we express Him much more fully than when we try to bend our spirit to some preconceived notion of what we’re “supposed” to be.
What would it do to our guilt levels to be able to say: “I might not be a scholar or an athlete or a spiritual giant, but I am a gifted writer or cook or organizational genius…and that is all I need to be” — and then accept, really accept, that who we are IS enough, that we’re doing just fine in God’s eyes?
Wouldn’t that change everything?
One final thought. Of course, I’m not suggesting that there is no right and wrong and that we will never be required to make course corrections along our way. We’re human, after all. But even in those moments when we feel compelled to repent, there is a profound difference between the Spirit’s agent of change, Godly Sorrow, and guilt, which is Satan’s counterfeit.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, so I put together a little chart outlining what I believe are the major differences between them. I think understanding how God speaks vs. how guilt speaks is crucial to finding the path our Father has laid out for us. Only then can we be empowered by His grace to become more and more who He wants us to be.
|Produces feelings of anxiety and fear||Produces feelings of calmness and
|Encourages shame, silence, and lies||Leads to open, direct confession|
|Distorts the truth||Reveals the truth|
|Is full of self-loathing||Is full of mercy|
|Creates confusion, worry and
|Shows a clear path to reconciliation|
|Is desperate and miserable||Is full of hope for change|
Anyway, I’d love to get some feedback on the thoughts I’ve shared here. What do you think? Why are women so influenced by guilt? How do you tell the difference between guilt and Godly Sorrow? Do you have any strategies or tips for overcoming guilt? Anything else you’d like to add?
This post is one in a series. Get the rest of the series here.
Posted on September 21, 2010, in Mental Health, Mormonism, Thoughts on God, Women and Happiness and tagged acceptance, expectations, God, godly sorrow, guilt, love, perfection, shame, women, worthiness. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.