All of us, at one time or another, have tried to make others feel guilty about something in order to change their behavior in some way. It happens all of the time from things such as telling your husband, “I guess I will take the trash out” to something like a child telling their parents that they love one child more than another. We all do things like this and we all learn this from a very early age. I could swear, if I did not know any better, that Sophie is already trying to lay some guilt trips on us and she just turned a year old. The worst thing about a guilt trip is that the easiest and most effective targets are the people we know the best and love the most. We know their faults, their weaknesses, their passions, their pursuits, and in general we just know how to push their buttons. Because of that, the easiest people to “guilt” into doing something or feeling some way are the people that we really know. With that said, let me tell you about a recent guilt trip I gave myself…
This past Friday, I was sitting around my parents’ house in LaGrange with Jess and my Mom and Dad and I started looking online at Black Friday deals. If you read our previous post called “It’s a Boy” then you know that we are having a son in February and there are some things that we need to have prior to his arrival as we will have a newborn and a 15-month-old at the same time. So I was looking at double strollers, high chairs, and cribs to see if there were any good deals (I did not find any) and something just kind of hit me. I looked around at the house, felt the a/c, and realized that I could purchase (or at least register for) some of these items and I felt guilty. I thought about our kids in Haiti when they were born and the fact that they probably did not have a stroller, a crib, a high chair, or many of the other things that we have for Sophie and that we are going to have for our son (you should see how excited all of our kids get when they play with Sophie’s toys). There was no reason to feel guilt because we should want to do these things for our children, but the guilt was there nonetheless. I feel guilty on many other occasions that I have mentioned in the past including but not limited to the movie theatre, vacation, family events, and other things that I now know many people around the world will never experience. It was a little different this past Friday. I was sitting there after eating a lot of food the previous day, getting ready to go to a good restaurant, shopping online, and about to spend the evening with the rest of our family and it was just strange. It wasn’t anything mood-altering or life-changing and I didn’t mention it to anyone, but I looked around and realized that just in the past week I have been blessed in ways that many people around the world could not even comprehend. Again, this was not a life-changing moment in my life, but looking back I now realize that I have to ask myself 2 questions in light of the guilt that I felt:
Why have I been blessed like this?
What do I plan to do about it?
I could make this blog a lot longer and try to answer those questions, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to challenge each of you to ask and answer those same questions. Think about all of the blessings that you have and ask the really difficult question…”Why me?” And not in the context of us not being worthy (though we are not) but in the context of why we receive these blessings when so many never will. Think about people around the world who will never know what it is like to have their basic needs met much less the conveniences and material abundance that we take for granted. After you have thought about these things, ask yourself why we get to experience and have the things that we experience and have. If you have never done that before, it is a very humbling exercise. The truth is, before going to Haiti, I had no idea that there were still places like this because I was so comfortable and so out of touch. “Why me” is one of the most powerful questions we can ask and one of the most difficult questions to answer.
After you get to the bottom of that really difficult question, ask yourself the much easier question to answer yet much more challenging question to act upon, “What do I plan to do about it?” It is one thing to get to the point where we are truly thankful for all that we have and cease to take for granted the abundance in which we live. It is another thing altogether to do something about it. Many of us, and I am guilty of this myself, tell ourselves we do not have enough money to give to others, enough time to spend helping others, or enough skills to be of service to others when in reality none of those things are true. They just aren’t. If we were to get to the bottom of each of those excuses the truth would simply be that we don’t have enough compassion or love to care about others if it means we have to change something about our own lives or sacrifice something that we want. Many of us, including myself, like to talk a good game but have more trouble changing our lives in significant ways to make sure we are helping others. As individuals, it is more important for us to help others than it is to constantly work our way up in our careers. As parents, it is more important for us to teach our children what it looks like to give of our time and money than it is to teach them to hit a baseball, have the best clothes, or be the best musicians. As followers of Christ, it is more important that we worship our Savior than anything else we could ever do and every single one of our actions should have Him at its center. So please, ask yourself this question:
What do I plan to do with the blessings I have been given?
So, since this is about laying guilt trips, I thought I would end with what seems like one of the largest guilt trip type days on the calendar…Giving Tuesday. You may or may not know that tomorrow has become known throughout America as Giving Tuesday as a way to bring more attention to the work of nonprofits in America. It is a reaction to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday (which I just have learned is the 3rd largest retail day of the year and will be on Dec 12 this year) and it is a day to give to your favorite nonprofit. I know most of you who read this blog are already supporters of All Things New, but if you are looking to be involved in Giving Tuesday (and here is my guilt trip for you) we would love for you to make ATN your nonprofit of choice (just click here to get to our “donate” page) and to share us with everyone you know!