The Consequences of a Guilt-Free Life
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I remember getting into trouble with my parents when I was a kid. Inevitably at the end of the day, I’d lay in bed and think, “I can’t wait to be an adult. Then there won’t be anyone to get angry at me or punish me for the trouble I’ve caused.” Even more than wanting to escape the punishment, what I really wanted to outrun was the sense of guilt and failure I felt when I had done something wrong. I believed that once I became an adult, without my mom or dad getting after me, that I could finally live in a guilt-free world. I could do what I wanted or what I felt was right in the moment and live in total freedom.
Adulthood does offer a person more control over their surroundings and as a result there can be less accountability when it comes to making bad choices. We convince ourselves that we don’t “do bad things” we just, “Occasionally make bad choices”. If we’re invested in the business of outrunning anything that makes us feel bad, guilty, or inadequate, we can figure out how to control who or what makes us feel that way and move toward minimizing or eliminating those people or things from our lives.
Except there’s this…
My life is a result of everything I do, think, say, and believe. It’s a compilation from my childhood to my present. If the objective in my youth was to flee accountability believing that it would bring me freedom, and I made marked decisions to achieve that, my adult life is a result of doing what I want, when I want, for my own reasons, with little to no objectivity or impartiality.
My mom had this uncanny ability to press her words into my soul even in my adulthood. If she knew that I was making bad decisions or functioning in an unhealthy way, she’d say, “What you do is between you and God and you will ultimately be accountable to Him, not to me.” This doesn’t mean she wouldn’t speak hard truth to me, she still gave me her perspective and opinions. Her ideas and beliefs were strong. I could in some ways tune out her opinions because I was good at creating reasons for myself as to why her way of thinking didn’t apply to me. My interpretation could be different from hers and that was a pathway I constructed to tamp down my conscience. Her gentle reminder was this, even a guilt-free life has consequences, therefore, living a guilt-free life shouldn’t be the goal.
I can make whatever stupid choices I want and live a lifetime convincing myself that they weren’t stupid because, “That’s what made me who I am today.” I can appease that nagging voice that’s saying I need to get up earlier, work harder, be more disciplined, and increase my resistance by purchasing the ideology that, “It’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” The philosophical shelves are full of comfort “foods”:
- It’s okay to take a day off
- I’m doing this for me
- Don’t worry about what other people think
- If you don’t like me or what I do, step aside
The shelves are full of neatly packaged, perfectly marketed, delicious looking, feel-good persuasions. We spend intellectual, emotional, and spiritual funds on these items every single day. While there is space for these things in a person’s life, much like herbs and spices add to food, they should be the seasoning, not the main course.
Giving yourself a break sometimes is necessary. However, if you’re constantly looking toward a lot of feel-good stuff to keep you motivated, the outpouring of your life will be a result of that low level of resistance. You can continue to protect yourself from the people and things that make you feel bad, or that numb your conscience, but in doing that you are making an extraordinary compromise. The result is a life of weights and burdens that will eventually become too heavy to keep packing around with you. Take inventory of these actions and consequences:
- Personal relationships that are a wreck and it’s a common thread throughout your life
- Turning a blind eye to the turmoil that’s ruining your partner, family member, or friend
- Creating conflict with those around you to self-medicate and blame others for the consequences of your own actions
- Begrudging other’s success because you can’t achieve your own
- Making compromises to avoid hard times
- Do what feels good now and deal with the consequences later, i.e. financially, morally, or spiritually
- Avoiding arduous or redundant work believing the wages are too low, or you deserve more
- Disorganization and procrastination
- Anger and emotional instability
- Entitlement to easiness
In the end, you’ll find that choosing not to be too hard on yourself is best when you have the intellectual and emotional fortitude to find refreshment in the waters of leniency but have spent a lifetime learning to know when it’s time to get up and move on.
Dawna Stafford Music
Dawna is a northwest singer-songwriter and cover song artist based in Spokane and Northern Idaho. Described as a folk-rock star, her acoustic arrangements and vocals are soulful and raw. Her style is an upbeat fusion of modern folk and light rock, delivering live performances that are fun, diverse and relatable. Audiences love the dynamic range from upbeat and tempo driven to melodic and thoughtful. Dawna is a versatile artist who knows how to engage and entertain people with a mix of both originals and familiar cover songs that span the decades.