When was the last time that you sat with your head hanging in shame? When was the last time that you felt ridden with guilt? It probably wasn’t too long ago, because we all have those moments of, “Why did I do that?” Or even, “Why didn’t I do that?”
Our world is full of people with feet dragging because they can’t stop thinking about something that they orchestrated. Even if it was by accident. Sometimes we feel guilty for something that wasn’t really our fault. Take, for example, the man who pours his savings and his hope into starting a restaurant. He puts his whole self into his work. He gives it his all. He tried hard. So hard. Yet business isn’t what he thought it would be, and soon there is a permanent closed sign hanging over the door. He walks away with the words failure written all over him. He doesn’t realize that no one sees those words but himself. He thinks that he should have done something different. He feels like the whole town is laughing at him, saying, “He thought he could make it running THAT place?” But he is the only one who is taunting himself. He wonders why he had ever started the restaurant in the first place. He never thinks about the fact that he TRIED. He only remembers that he failed. He blames and ridicules himself in the corners of his mind. He also holds grudges against his employees. They should have worked harder! Now he is too afraid to do anything new. What if he doesn’t have what it takes?
Or think of the mother, who tells her boy that he can have free time to ride his bike down the sidewalk. He hops on his bike and peddles furiously away. He happens to think that the sidewalk across the street looks like twice as much fun. He doesn’t see the car coming around the corner. The car doesn’t see him. And, suddenly, her active little boy can no longer walk. He’s confined to a wheelchair. There’s no hope for recovery. And, everyday, his mother thinks, “If I hadn’t told him that he could go…” For the rest of her life, she lives drowning in that regret. Why? She didn’t say, “Go out in the road.” But, still, we, as humans, must find someone or something to blame when all goes wrong. Sometimes that blame and guilt is placed by us on God, our children, spouses, best friends…or even our very selves. We insist that it must be someone’s fault. It’s our nature. I often wonder what the world would be like if we were not created with the ability to blame; to place guilt. Does anything else on earth hold the bitterness we hold?
Think about a bird, watching helplessly as its nest and young are blown from a tree in a raging storm. Afterwards, does it think, “I could have done more. I should have tried harder!” even though, no matter what it did, it couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening? A human would. For the rest of our lives we think, “If only…”
Yet the bird begins to build another nest. It lays eggs, raises young, and moves forward.
Think of deer grazing in a field when BAM! a hunter fires. A large deer falls as the rest flee. Later, does the remaining herd think, “We were so close, just feet away. Why was it her and not us? The world is unfair. I didn’t deserve life; she deserved it more!”? A human would.
Deer don’t have our emotions. Either do birds. Why?
Well, for one, they probably wouldn’t survive. Can you imagine an entire herd of sluggish, teary-eyed deer dragging their feet through the forest? And, if the bird didn’t have the courage to make a new nest, to start over, there would be very few left in the world. I know from watching many pairs of birds–from robins to rose-breasted grosbeaks–that more than half the time a brood of young meets with disaster and never quite reaches the “first flight” stage. There would be a lot of guilt-filled grieving birds around if they had human emotions.
But they don’t.
Can you imagine what life would be like if we didn’t blame ourselves and others and we just moved on? I’m not saying you should be like, “Oops, that’s too bad that my friend fell off a cliff…however, I’ll just have to get over it.” Of course that’s not what I mean. What I mean is Why does it always have to be someone’s fault? We can never come to terms with the fact things happen. Bad things. People make mistakes. People say things they don’t mean. Dreams fail. Accidents take place. And no one needs to be reminded of their wrong-doing or wrong turn for the rest of their lives.
We are all created with a sense of guilt and shame–which can be good when it reminds us to shape up. It can be terribly harmful, though, when it’s a lifetime nagging of, “Your fault…your fault…your fault…”
We make mistakes. You, me, everybody.
“Forgive and you will be forgiven,” Jesus says.
Let us forgive others. Let us forgive ourselves. Let us put blame behind us.
And move on.
McKennaugh Kelley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is seventeen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.