I’m not one to put much stock in sterotypes, but I was raised Catholic. And I have Catholic guilt. Bad. But I’ve worked really hard to get rid of it and I’ve learned some things along the way. Like that the problem with Catholic guilt is that it relies on a very inaccurate view of how the world works. It’s mostly sustained by the holy trio of bad ideas:
1. Somehow everything is my responsibility
2 Everything that goes wrong is my fault.
3. What I want or think is almost certainly wrong.
Catholic guilt’s hard to get rid of because of the specter of pride lurking just over your shoulder. If you reject the triumvrent above, it’s because you are giving into pride. Giving into pride is giving into a delusion. Taking the risk of being delusional requires lots of evidence and really, what have you ever done that’s so special any ways?
One of the things which I have had to learn as part of the process of moving past feeling guilty for bothering people with my breathing is how to tell the difference between an excuse and a reason. I came to see it this way: an excuse is when your desire determines which obstacles you can overcome. A reason is when you simply don’t have the resources or ideas you need to overcome the obstacles in your way.
Often the person offering the excuse or reason for why something didn’t go the way it should have is the only person who knows the difference. Be honest with yourself. We all make excuses – which are really pleas for a little bit of grace – from time to time. By being honest with ourselves about when we are making an excuse for something you could have done better, it’s easier to feel confident about your reasons. When you are confident in your reasons – which are our declaration of innocence when things go wrong – it really cuts down on unwarrented guilt.
What makes this so hard for me personally is that sometimes I’m honestly doing my best and things keep going wrong and I just can’t always hold everything together the way that I want. And I have to offer reasons for my problems which can sound ridiculously like excuses; “I’m sorry the girls missed the girl scouts meeting because we were on our way and got a flat tire. Yes, on one of the new tires that we had to have replaced the last time we got a flat tire and missed the girl scouts meeting. They were doing road work and I guess I ran over something and I didn’t have a phone to call you because . . . ” It’s gotten ridiculous at times and I can’t blame people for thinking there’s something wrong with me. But I know the difference between an excuse I might legitimately feel guilty about and a reason that I couldn’t do much of anything to change. I have to keep reminding myself not to make apologies or feel guilty that my best might not be good enough. It’s all I can do. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to do more.