You've made it to the end of yet another marathon day- pajamas are in sight! You can finally shake those shoes off your aching feet and partake in that elusive concept everyone talks about. What’s it called again? Oh yes—“Relaxing.” Webster also refers to this term as, “Resting,” or, “Chilling.”
You take a deep breath (Isn’t this how one starts that whole “relaxing” process?) and decide to triple check your day’s to-do list just one more time before you tuck it away for the night. As you skim your list, panic grabs hold. You didn’t finish it. Your eyes threaten to droop but your soul screams and you hear that all-too-familiar bully in your brain. It hisses “You failed. Again. You didn’t accomplish what you set out to do.” So, you have a choice: retreat and go to bed like the incompetent soldier you obviously are, or march on until that list receives another golden check mark and the unwelcome sun dances in, seemingly far too early for its cue.
Neither options are winners: total exhaustion or crippling guilt.
What if there was another way for us? One that didn’t involve mental punishment or a zombie-fied system powered by caffeine? There must be. And there is.
Let me admit that I am “team captain” when it comes to allowing the guilt bully to attack. By the grace of God, I am saying, “No more!” Are you with me? Here is a process I am trying to incorporate to combat the guilt and move toward a more healthy version of myself.
Let’s show that bully who’s boss of this playground:
1. Point out the Problem.
Although I mask it in a pretty package with “Achiever” stamped across the front, the ammunition my Bully uses against me is enticing me to strive for worth.
I feel the compulsive need to prove to others that I am superwoman. That I am clearly important enough to be involved in so many things, effective in these activities, and crazy talented enough to juggle them all.
If I dare to dig a little deeper, into the dark recesses of the “ugly” in me, I will admit that I’m trying to prove to myself that I’m wanted. I fill all of my time with check lists, activities and projects so that I will not have to face the quiet. If I do, I might meet the thoughts I’ve been running away from, and have to confront the deeper issues within, like insecurity, fear, or (let’s be honest—AND) pride. My to-do’s act as a bandaid for the sickness I have no desire of addressing.
Does this sound familiar? Just like the Alcoholics Anonymous theory projects, we cannot fix a problem we deny having. Do you strive for worth like me? Are you guilt-driven? Do you constantly try to pretend you “have it all together?” What web of lies does your bully spin you? Think about it. I can wait.
Got it? Did you pinpoint a lie (or a few)? Ok, let’s look at number two:
Do our to-do lists have anything to do with what we actually hope to accomplish longterm? So many of the tasks on my list are simply there to fill empty time, and exist to satisfy my “should’s,” rather than my dreams.
Take some time to think about the goals you want to tackle within the next year. Then, imagine what you want to complete within six months, three months, one month, and one week.
Create a DO-ABLE (did I say “do-able?”) daily list that will eventually result in the accomplishment of those longterm goals. If a daily goal does not coincide with a weekly, monthly, or yearly goal, LET’S TAKE IT OFF OF OUR LISTS!
I’m not advocating neglecting our duties. I get it— the car has to be washed, the kids need lunches, and the test needs studying. I am, however, declaring permission for us to tear off, scratch off, heck- even BURN off those “should’s” that guilt us away from our dreams.
Before we get to number three, what are your “should’s” that are space-fillers and time-wasters? We’ve all got ‘em. Now, let’s start getting rid of ‘em!
Kill it. Perfectionism is a poison disguised as “doing our best.” This is a foe I fight on the daily. The lie it preaches is, “You should be able to do everything, and do it above and beyond all pre-conceived human standards, notions, or imaginings.”
Reading it above, clearly, this is an outrageous lie. But I fall prey to it more than I’d like to admit.
The honest truth is you can't do everything. You only have so many breaths in so many hours in so many days in a week. You get the picture.
Create new rhythms of grace for yourself. Just as we forgive others who make mistakes and fall short, so we must forgive ourselves… especially as the amount of extraordinary tasks we ask of ourselves are most likely impossible to complete anyway. (Can I get an “Amen?!”)
Guilt does not inspire, it constricts. We will likely accomplish more, and accomplish it far more beautifully, if we heap grace upon grace instead of guilt upon guilt.
Our dreams will satisfy us. Our “should’s” will empty us. This life is a gift and there are too many cliches promising, "Time flies," not to heed them.
Let’s grant ourselves the opportunity to design a life we love. It will never be void of responsibility, but it can be balanced with your passions, aspirations, and dreams.
Tonight, when you wind down preparing for that looming Monday and are tempted to delve into your impossible to-do list, I challenge you not to. Stop. Together, let’s practice our new rhythm of grace. That “Not-Doing-Enough” bully is going to come a-knocking, but know that truth and grace are powerful enough to silence him.
Please know I am not only challenging you, but my guilt-driven, perfectionist self as well. Let’s do this together. Let’s sit in these questions. Next week, let’s revisit this and see how we grappled with these steps.
Remember, you can do this. By allowing yourself grace, you can be free from that guilting bully.