A disclaimer, before I start. This is not a religious blog, although I will be quoting the Book of Common Prayer. Neither is it anti-religious. This is a blog about being human, and feeling guilty.
Maybe you have escaped the curse, if so – then be thankful, because you are one of the lucky ones. Unless you are a sociopath of course; then, maybe not so much.
In my experience, everyone I meet feels guilty.
I'll go first; this is mine. Hands up if you feel guilty for not being a better mother. Ah, yes – that's twenty-three thousand, five hundred and fifty-seven I can see – and that's just those of you on the front row. Um – Sir? Yes, it's okay for you to have your hand up for that one too.
Let's try another. How many of you feel guilty for not being better at your job? So, that's the other half of you, then (plus two thirds of the guilty mothers).
Carrying on then: guilty for not having the house and garden tidy, guilty for not being a better friend, guilty for not having reached your potential and succeeded better in life, guilty for being ill with depression in the first place, guilty for not being able to solve the problems of the world, guilty for...?
The Anglican Prayer of Penitence says simply, "We have left undone those things that we ought to have done and we have done those things that we ought not to have done."
Another form continues, "through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault."
Well, that's simple enough, isn't it? Except that it isn't.
I didn't take my daughter to Scouts last week – I let her father do it, even though I knew he was tired; because I had a prior commitment: guilty whichever choice I made.
I ate the cake she made, though I am slimming. Guilty for letting myself down or guilty for hurting her feelings?
I didn't reply to that email last week; it slipped my mind and I lost the sale. Oops – guilty again.
The lawn needs mowing, the ironing isn't done, the bathrooms are dirty and I haven't read that book for my book club meeting this Tuesday...
So, let's just go back to those simple words. The things undone. Are there any of them things that I ought to have done - really? Maybe the email. That was a shame. My forgetfulness; a weakness, I confess.
The rest? There is no "ought" when there is no time. There are only choices. I choose to write and to spend time with my family. The payment for this is an untidy house and a messy garden.
We feel guilty because we are guilty of being human, of being imperfect. But we do the best we can; all of us. We cannot repent of being human, but we can repent of feeling guilty.
Guilt is a venomous serpent which ruins lives. Don't be guilty of letting it ruin yours.
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