Guilt, Despair, & Freedom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have it so good. This has struck me before, but it struck me again this week with greater clarity. I am so lucky, or blessed, or privileged, or whatever word you want to use even compared to the neighbor kid down the street, let alone impoverished children in third world countries. I don’t deserve what I have: parents, house, food, job…I deserve none of it. It’s not fair that both of my parents love me, and express that love well. It’s not fair that my sleepless nights aren’t caused by anxiety, hunger, or an argument in the next room. Life isn’t fair to anyone, I know, but isn’t it ironic that after having randomly drawn the longer straw, after having been given blessings which I cannot control I feel guilty? I have health, relative wealth, and the ability to acquire knowledge. I have so much more than I could ever need or ask for.

But guilt isn’t the right response. I know that. The proper responses are joy and generosity. I’ve tried to exercise both of those and lose the guilt, really I have, but most of the truly misfortunate don’t want my pity. Handouts or apologies on their behalf won’t go over well. And joy doesn’t coexist well with guilt, so I’ve failed on both counts– joy and generosity. Sometimes I wish I could just switch, that I could take their panic attacks, and sleepless nights, and the burden of the fights they’ve had to watch. Because maybe then the guilt would go away, and I’ve always been fascinated with the aesthetic of despairย anyway. I have to be careful or I’ll soon become a masochist, though I’ll be seeking out pain not for it’s own sake, but because it leads to meaning (which may or may not be true). There’s a reason lyrics like “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.” have always been appealing to me.

Now you probably think I’m a whacked out overly-empathetic freak.Oh well, you’re probably right. But maybe soon I’ll be a recovering whacked out overly-empathetic freak. Maybe soon I’ll realize that I can’t save the world because Jesus already did. Maybe I’ll see that all I’m called to do is to take the people and their burdens to Him. I’m not to don their millstones myself. I hope so. Because I know it’s not healthy to feel guilty for having it so good, or to feel the pain of others more than they do. I want to represent Christ well, but I can only be Christ to the people to an extent. I can’t take their sins. I can’t mentally bear the whole of their collective afflictions. I have it so good, so I need to be thankful, and un-guilty for that and move on. So much easier said than done.

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Categories: Journey Prologues., Ponderings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Guilt, Despair, & Freedom

  1. Destinee

    Wow. Wow. Wow. You said exactly what I’ve been feeling in the last couple of weeks!! Yesterday I was thinking about it quite a bit again…and I don’t know…you did a really good job of putting it all into words! What CAN I do for others?? I can’t truly understand the pain that one of my friends is feeling from living in a horrible home…there’s no way I can actually “get it”. But then how can I help her? How can she feel free to share with me her struggles when she knows that I have no idea how it really is for her? How can I tell her to forgive and love and everything else that would ‘free’ her when I’ve never had to forgive my family members like she really needs to? Any thoughts on this?? I so badly want to share what I’ve been blessed with, but I don’t know how!!!

    I’ve wondered already too why I feel so deeply for others pain. I love how you described it…”overly-empathetic freak”. Says it quite well.

    Thanks again for sharing! It honestly was almost weird reading your post…it felt like I must’ve written it in my sleep or something – it was so exactly what’s been on my heart! ๐Ÿ™‚ God bless you as you strive to reach out in love. It’s a painful but fulfilling ministry!

    • Destinee,

      It’s always so encouraging to hear that someone else has the same struggles I do. It’s also a bit scary when they ask me for answers I’m not sure of myself. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’ll answer your question in the first paragraph, as I am usually guilty of answering things, with a song. This Casting Crowns song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Cisx-qH4gk) can be a frustrating answer because it’s so simple that it often doesn’t seem like enough. Like when someone says the answer is pray, it seems so insufficient. But this is the best advice I’ve got: love the people, and be vulnerable and honest with them. Some may hurt you for your openness, but most will respect you for it.

      So yeah, thanks again for your encouragement. It’s always nice to know your not the only one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I really agree with your conclusion about being thankful. Further thoughts may be too big for a blog comment so instead I will ask if you have read Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” I am reading it (have not finished yet) and a big theme in the book is being thankful. Her style of writing reminds me a bit of N.D. Wilson. It kind of seemed like the theme of the book intersects a bit with your post here.

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