Guilt came first. Anxiety came in tow. Guilt drove the truck, but anxiety bounced in the flatbed. Adam and Eve didn’t know how to process their failure. Neither do we. But still we try. We don’t duck into the bushes. We have more sophisticated ways to deal with our guilt. We . . .
Numb it. With a bottle of Grey Goose. With an hour of Internet pornography. With a joint of marijuana, a rendezvous at the motel. Guilt disappears during happy hour, right? Funny how it reappears when we get home.
Deny it. Pretend we never stumbled. Concoct a plan to cover up the bad choice. One lie leads to another, then another. We adjust the second story to align with the first. Before long our knee-jerk reaction to any question is, how can I prolong the charade?
Minimize it. We didn’t sin; we just lost our way. We didn’t sin; we got caught up in the moment. We didn’t sin; we just took the wrong path. We experienced a lapse in judgment.
Bury it. Suppress the guilt beneath a mound of work and a calendar of appointments. The busier we stay, the less time we spend with the people we have come to dislike most: ourselves.
Punish it. Cut ourselves. Hurt ourselves. Beat up ourselves. Flog ourselves. If not with whips, then with rules. More rules. Long lists of things to do and observances to keep. Painful penance. Pray more! Study more! Give more! Show up earlier; stay up later.
Avoid the mention of it. Just don’t bring it up. Don’t tell the family, the preacher, the buddies. Keep everything on the surface, and hope the Loch Ness monster of guilt lingers in the deep.
Redirect it. Lash out at the kids. Take it out on the spouse. Yell at the employees or the driver in the next lane.
Offset it. Determine never to make another mistake. Build the perfect family. Create the perfect career. Score perfect grades. Be the perfect Christian. Everything must be perfect: hair, car, tone of voice. Stay in control. Be absolutely intolerant of slipups or foul-ups by self or others.
Embody it. We didn’t get drunk; we are drunks. We didn’t screw up; we are screwups. We didn’t just do bad; we are bad. Bad to the bone. We might even take pride in our badness. It’s only a matter of time until we do something bad again.
Adam and Eve hid behind fig leaves, bushes, and lies. Not much has changed.
Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
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