My three year old granddaughter sat in time out, sobbing, “But I want to be good, I want to be good.” I had to turn my head to keep from smiling at her emphatic pleas of self control. We've all been there. Paul says it like this: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” If we check closely to what Paul is saying, we see he is talking about “doing” or “do” meaning our actions. He does not say, “I am not good” The whole subject of this reminds me of a comment my pastor Rex said, a couple of Sunday’s ago about the difference between shame and guilt. Shame attacks our character, it is destructive and can be lasting, it says, “We” are wrong; it is not positive and causes pain. Guilt, however can come and go as we face our failures, help motivate us to make changes, it says what I “Did” is wrong, it can actually be quite healthy as we understand boundaries.
The whole reason I’m blogging about this issue is what happened to me about a month or two ago. I was out making my marketing rounds and I had to pull out of a paralleled parking spot. It was a tight fit so back and forth I tried to crawl out. I momentarily looked down to see if I had written my mileage down and very lightly kissed the car behind me. I pulled forward and looked in my rearview mirror. I didn’t see that I had done any damage, so I moved out the spot and went on my way.
As I got about two miles away and I starting thinking, I really should have got out of the car and given the car a better visual check to see if there was damage. I don’t know why I didn't except for the fact that it was barely touched. I was also in a hurry and it would have been hard to get myself back into the crammed area. What happened later in the day would underscore the difference between shame and guilt.
It started with a conversation later in the evening, I was having with my hubbie, Doug. I said, “You know, I tapped a person’s car today, but I don’t think I did any damage at all, but I think I should have left a note.” He is a joker, so he gave me a horrified look and said, “You did a hit and run?” “No, no,” I cried, “it was a just a slight bump and I couldn't even see a mark on the other guy’s car!” Doug continued, “My wife is a criminal.” “You should have left a note.” Since I’m usually a goody two shoes, he was really enjoying himself and added, “I don’t know how you’re gonna live with yourself.” He couldn't have been more right.
Later that night when he went to bed, my vivid imagination ran away with me. Now I knew he was joking, but shame started creeping in. I got on the internet to look up hit and runs. Clearly, I had committed a felony and was going to jail.
I left for work in the morning and headed back to
for more marketing rounds and to gather
the courage to turn myself in. I hadn't
shared a word with Doug about my plans because somewhere deep inside I knew what I was about to do was crazy and didn't want to hear his input. After a few doctor offices rounds, I headed to the
police station.The instructions on the wall at the station told me to pick up the phone
to speak to the officer of the day. (Nobody gets in without being buzzed in.) I’m sure he had a camera to view me in my pink
floral blouse and skirt ready to confess my misdoings. I probably was a little
different visitor than some of the variety of humans I encountered in the
parking lot, in fact, I had rushed past a scruffy guy finishing up his cigarette
to get my ordeal over. The horrible person I had become deserved to be in jail.
Well, can I just tell you I felt like a million bucks returning to my car? Clarity of my ridiculous self began to reveal reality. I wasn’t horrible after all. Thinking about my journey from the night before, I realized I had really left God out of all of my decisions to rectify my saga; I was the self appointed judge and jury. Shame does this and it had broken my relationship with God instead of bringing me closer to the point of being silly.
Later in the evening I told Doug what I had done, and he laughed his head off. “You have got to be kidding me?” “I would have found you in handcuffs at the police station?” "You are nuts!" I told him, “Well, you told me I was a criminal and I just had to make things right, no matter the consequences.” We have come from very different childhoods – me raised by “Ossie and Harriet- “the do good" family and Doug “if you see a cop- run” family. Shame had taken me down an overblown path, calling me evil, tormenting me until I couldn't stand it.
Simple spiritual conviction or guilt would have been so much better. I wouldn't have exaggerated my plight and most of all would not have thought of God’s beloved–"me"-as a dumb nut for life. Looking back I completely laugh at how extreme I went, but I think God was trying to teach me something about the people that I pray for during the day. The message of grace and forgiveness is a powerful tool to the broken that don’t know the difference between shame and guilt. We want to be good. We really do. The fact is we will blow it from time to time, and we may even find ourselves in time out with God.
There was more to my granddaughter's story in time out. While she sobbed, I heard her mother answer her back, “Karis, I love you, You are not bad, you just need to start using your listening ears.” Maybe we all need to put our listening ears on a little better and like Karis, know that we are loved regardless of our misguided adventures.