An Antidote to Guilt

Karen Herbert // Genius of the Call


October 11  

I am visiting my young adult daughter for the day. I cook, clean, and do laundry. I pet the cats, watch some TV, and hang out. I try to get my daughter out of the apartment and into the fresh air. I cautiously make suggestions and offer encouragement. I keep the nagging to a minimum (but she does have to pay her bills).

As in every visit, my heart overflows with love and longing for my deeply suffering child. I see her pain. I walk with her and offer connection. I cry for her, and I show love and support in every way I can. In short, I demonstrate profound compassion for her in the midst of her very real challenges.

But not for myself.

Instead, as I drive home, I think, “I didn’t do enough. I didn’t do the right things. I pushed too much. I didn’t push enough. I need to do more, to do better, to do something different. It’s all my fault. If only I had been more aware all those years ago. If only I were a different sort of mother. And, let’s be honest, there’s all those mistakes I made. . .those were damaging. Let’s relive them, shall we?”

In truth, I don’t need an extreme situation to feel guilty, criticize myself, second-guess, say I’m a bad mom, compare myself with others, find fault, and invalidate my own suffering. It doesn’t matter how old my kids are, I’m just not good at showing compassion to myself.

Yet, Scripture tells us that God is compassionate to all.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made (Psalm 145:8-9).

God is not beating me up. God is not critical or angry or calling me a bad mom. God sees my own suffering and challenges and wants to give me profound compassion right where I am.

If I’m too busy hearing other voices (like my own), I can’t hear the kind voice of God. If I can’t be compassionate towards myself, I can’t receive the depth of God’s compassion for me.

Today, I am giving self-compassion a try, and I invite you to join me:

  1.  Notice a moment of difficulty or suffering (small or large) and pause to be present to your own pain in that moment. Say, “This is difficult for me.”
  2.  Invite God to be with you in your suffering–small or large–and remember that this is part of being human and that everyone feels like this sometimes.
  3.  Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” What would be a kind thing you could do for yourself or say to yourself right now? How would you treat a friend in the same situation?

And just for a moment, gather up all the kindness and compassion you have for those you love and turn towards yourself. Offer it to yourself. Because you, too, are deserving of love and compassion.


*Karen Herbert is a certified life coach and trainer of NLP and Mental Emotional ReleaseTM . A mother of three, she teaches self-compassion courses and co-hosts The Catholic Midlife Podcast. Find out more about self-compassion here: he-eyes-of-god


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