Yesterday at church I was talking to my priest and mentioned that I’ve been coming as much as I can, but I’m juggling a lot right now. It was obvious she could hear the guilt in my undertone, and she quickly reminded me that the world doesn’t revolve around how we spend our Sunday mornings, and she was delighted to see me whenever I could make it.
It was like she lifted a weight off my shoulders.
It flashed me back to a conversation several years ago. I was invited to a girls night out with a new friend, and I ended up sitting across from her bad ass entrepreneur friend. I was struggling with what to order because they didn’t have a single thing on the menu I wanted. She said to me, “Oh…I see what’s happening here. You’re still catching other people’s guilt.”
She said that she stopped participating in the guilt game. There are people who walk around throwing guilt on others, and there are people who walk around catching guilt. Once she realized it was happening, she stopped participating. If there is not something on the menu I want, I don’t HAVE to order something. This concept was too much to wrap my mind around in the moment so I settled on a hot tea, deciding that passing on any food items was enough outside my comfort zone.
I’ve never seen this delightful human again, but she helped change me that night. She told me that when someone starts “shoulding” all over her (telling her what she “should” be doing) she just smiles and says “are you trying to make me feel guilty?”
Since then, there have been a couple times that I’ve felt extremely uncomfortable as someone tried to throw guilt on me, and I decided to test the idea. I smiled and said “are you trying to make me feel guilty right now?” Bam. Conversation ended. It freaking worked.
It’s been almost four years since that night, and I have come so far in managing my guilt. I realized not only did I frequently catch others’ guilt, but I was also regularly projecting onto others as well.
The most common occurrence I’ve noticed of this usually involves the word “should.” What I/you SHOULD be doing or SHOULD NOT be doing. Or maybe SHOULD HAVE done by now. Guilt is usually at the core of this phrase. When I hear the word “should” in my own thoughts I try to ask “according to who?” Often times it’s a result of the comparison game or an unfounded belief system.
A great replacement when having these thoughts or speaking these words is to exchange should with could. “I could have gone, but I chose not to because….” I love using could because it returns the power where it belongs. It gives me back my personal responsibility to do what’s best for my situation, and not what did or didn’t work for others.
Obviously, I will be working on this for the rest of my life. I mean, just yesterday I was apparently concerned with the fact I thought the priest was thinking I “should” be showing up in the pew more often.
If you are still playing in the game of guilt throwing and catching, I hope you find your path to freedom as well. Just because it’s happening all around us, doesn’t mean we have to participate.