As a cashew, a person of Catholic and Jewish descent, I am an expert on guilt. I spent years living guilt squared. If there was a problem, surely, I caused it. Or at least that’s how I felt. But I gave it up for Lent. Well, I have been giving it up for let every year for more than a decade. It tends to creep back.
Back in high school and college, my friends would give up dessert or chocolate or coffee or alcohol or all four for Lent. It was a sacrifice (who can live without chocolate?) but also pretty self-serving. A religious diet and health plan.
After college, a bunch of us decided to do something that had more of a contribution. Instead of giving up stuff we liked, we added service to our lives. We volunteered at shelters and kitchens, on campaigns, and other community efforts. A little less self-serving. Actually, not a bad idea.
My day job was working with low-income families, so I was a resource for where to volunteer. But many days, I felt bad about having a nice life. I got in the habit of assuaging my guilt by working long hours, missing family events, skipping holidays or vacations. There was an arrogant control freak thread. If it was my fault, then I could fix it.
But, being miserable and guilty did nothing for the families I worked with, made my family resentful and created a circular trap for me. It created a cage in which I could do nothing right – couldn’t enjoy my life, please my family or have enough impact fast enough for those I served. I had to stop it.
I joke that I give it up for Lent, but what I actually do is replace it. Instead of feeling guilty, I try to feel grateful and record daily what I am grateful for. I do this most of the year but sometimes get out of the habit. This is a good time to recommit. It really does help.
Grateful to you for reading and responding! Have a great week.