A Slave To Guilt – No More!*
I used to think my Dad was narrow minded and hard to please (back when I really didn’t know him). He would ‘tut and huff’ under his breath if he came across something that bothered him, and I always felt guilty just being myself around him. I later learned that he wasn’t tutting at me, (He was tutting at the increasing level of evil which he felt all around him), but I was so used to guilt trips, that I thought I was disappointing him each time I heard that “Tut”.
After 10 years of close relationship with my Dad I came to believe I was good enough. Good enough for him, and good enough for God. When he passed away and took his place with the stars, I knew his approval, acceptance and love for me could never change. He loved me and was proud of who I am. This realisation gave me a wonderful freedom from the guilt that had haunted me all my life. Then everything changed. I began to work hard on building boundaries against those who used guilt to manipulate me. Those who tried to make me feel not good enough, so that I would change to suit them.
It seems a popular topic at the moment. Many feel guilt from expectations, and the difficulty of establishing a healthy boundary with those who use guilt to manipulate. And many more think their expectations should be forced onto others, at the cost of being kind, or giving grace. They become manipulative, without even realising it.
The problem with having expectations is that you can be thrown into a negative mindset when they are not met. I remember being adamant about what I thought others should do, especially a romantic partner, a parent, or a sibling. It caused me to be constantly disappointed, surrounded by drama, and bitterness grew easily in my heart.
We all have various expectations, it is what makes us human, but are they reasonable expectations, or are they restrictive, high, and unreasonable? Do we expect others to behave in ways we have determined to be right or acceptable, and find it unbearable when others have completely different views? This can make personal relationships extremely complicated and difficult.
Guilt has some terrific benefits to the human condition, it convicts our hearts when we need to correct the choices we have made. To develop and grow into who we really want to be. The consequences of our choices is what brings about this healthy type of guilt. Sometimes we can come to the conclusion, for ourselves. Other times we forget to self-assess and it takes an outside source to point it out to us. These can all be beneficial experiences in the long run, if we are open to them.
However, when someone tries to force us to feel guilty because we didn’t meet their unreasonable expectations, this guilt changes from being beneficial to being manipulative. It is up to us to get honest with ourselves, to consider if we trust ourselves to decide, and if WE can live happily with our choices. The reactions of others may or may not be in line with our thinking, and it seems to have become too common to slip into trying to please every man and his dog, as a priority over what we believe is right for us, living guilt free.
This is such a complex issue and so many variables make it hard to give one simple answer. That being said, I have found that being a “people-pleaser” (i.e. trying to stop people being disappointed in you) only gets you so far before you begin to lose sight of who you are and who you want to be.
Setting a healthy boundary decreases this manipulation. This boundary might be, to consider the feelings of others, but only so far as to weigh up the possible consequences of your choice, and accept that they may not like your choice. Recognize that coming up against opposition doesn’t automatically make you wrong, or in need of a good dose of guilt. Think it through, are they being reasonable or not? Are they supporting the choice you are making for YOUR own reasons? Or are they putting their own expectations over your permission to choose for yourself?
I am so very glad that I had Dad to show me how toxic high expectations can be. He taught me to aim for grace over restriction, to try being accepting instead of dissatisfied.
Life is hard enough without tripping over the graceless expectations from others. We are human after all. The ability to get it wrong and change is upon our own shoulders, no one elses. Grace is a blessing waiting for us to grab onto. Give Grace to others, but also Give Grace to yourself and be freed from manipulative guilt!