As I started to write this...on January 6th...I was looking at two Santas, two snowmen, the words "Noel" and "Joy" and two Christmas trees sitting on top of my kitchen cabinets. If it is bad luck to keep your Christmas decorations up after the New Year...then this house was in serious trouble.
The rest of it was boxed up and was sitting in the family room just waiting for someone to get up enough gumption to place the ridiculous number of boxes carefully back in the attic until November...or December...or whenever I can bribe the people who can actually scurry up the ladder and drag them down for me to do so.
Oh, who am I kidding? Bribe? Seriously? Why bribe them when taking them on a little guilt trip will suffice. After all, I'd only requested that this be handled for a week. I'd done my part by boxing it up and stacking it in neat little rows. The actual activity of helping it make its grand exit up those freakishly scary little stairs that extend ten feet in the air through a hole in the ceiling in the hall...is for the boys.
First of all...I don't do ladders. Not when there are two perfectly capable red-blooded American males living under my roof. Secondly...I somehow believe that everyone ought to share in the unpleasantness around here...and quite frankly...boxing everything up was about as much unpleasantness as I cared to be involved with at the time.
Thus, the guilt trip.
I may not have traveled much...but I've got lots of stamps in my virtual passport for guilt trips. I'm a Southern woman...don't we all?
In the South, we know that everything that we do is a reflection on our families...so we try not to do anything that might cause an older member of our family to call us with something like..."Honey, I just received a phone call from Mrs. *insert name* who told me that she saw you at the game last Saturday. She wasn't sure if you saw her or not. But she saw you..."
It is at this point that you hope beyond hope that you were not doing anything you shouldn't have been doing. Or that it ended up on Facebook.
There are also versions of this for everything from weight gain to thank you notes to the mother of them all..."have you called your grandmother/mother/father/aunt/grandfather/uncle/brother/best friend from high school/neighbor who always asks about you recently? No? Well, you might want to rectify that situation because I'm going to see him/her at the DAR meeting/church/AARP meeting/lunch and I'm not making excuses for you again."
Between us, I never ever really WANTED to rectify that situation. But I did.
And I'm glad I did...because now some of them are gone and I don't have to get on the "Guilt Trip Express" to Regretsville. Eventually, that prodding turned to a deep appreciation for these folks and now that I'm grown and from time to time unappreciated myself...I am even more in awe of what drove them to love me in spite of it all.
Guilt trips are not always negative...sometimes they are just a way to jerk us back to reality...to get us off of the wide path and back onto the straight and narrow. People who love us enough to tell us to "act right" and "quit being so selfish" are doing us a huge favor, actually. We may not like it at the time...but waving that little guilt wand from time to time is usually extremely effective in teaching us how to be more loving.
Because sometimes being loving has to start with action. Doing something for someone because it needs to be done and because they are special to us means that we have to "die to self" and put whatever it was that we wanted to do on a back burner for someone else's good. We don't "feel" particularly loving, but we make a conscious decision day after day and eventually we realize that more often than not feeling follows action.
Raising children has certainly given me this perspective. When they were little and sleeping, I'd go in their room and touch their soft little faces and my heart would almost burst with the joy of the knowledge that God had entrusted them to my care. But colic, teething, toilet training, the "biting" phase, and the teen years were no picnic...I won't lie. There were times when I didn't particularly like them very much...but I always loved them. I just kept doing what needed to be done.
Including sending them on the occasional guilt trip.
I don't mean to sound flippant about that or to try to make it sound as if I believe that we should try to control or manage people by trying to make them feel guilty. Not at all. But making them hear the truth from someone that they'd rather not disappoint? Fine. Especially if I'm paying their bills. I have always tried to make sure that my standards were consistent and God-given...but sometimes I've been wrong. I haven't been fair...didn't know the whole story...or I just assumed the worst. Sometimes they felt like they had to live up to my impossible standards.
Hey, at least I had them.
I do realize that some people will send you on those guilt trips while making you think that it is all your fault when it honestly isn't. They are the kind of folks who just have to pick apart something out of some sense of superiority. I've learned to steer clear of this kind of person...and I've been quite effective at it.
But you know my favorite? How about the person who makes you know that you can be better because they are measuring up where you fall short...and they don't have to say a word. I think that this is why so many people have a problem with Tim Tebow. It isn't him...it is how they feel in comparison to someone being bold for Christ. If they aren't believers...they think it is a show and that it is ridiculous...so they mock him. Like mocking someone who is a Christian is anything new.
I have two friends that exercise religiously and watch what they eat. Their bodies don't carry extra weight...and neither looks anywhere near her age. When I am with them...they are nothing but encouraging. "You can do it!" they say. I never see a look of disdain for my poor food choices...nor do I ever feel judged. And yes, I want to be just like them. But I'm not wracked with guilt because I'm not...just the occasional twinge that I interpret as "motivation."
I try to keep it real, but from time to time I probably miss the mark. I wish I didn't, but I'm human. I want to be an encourager and an example.
Some days I just feel like a terrible warning. But I suppose that's okay, too.
I'm finishing this up several days after I started this post and I'm looking at the blank spaces where the boxes once lived. I still have my Christmas china stacked up on the buffet, so I'm not completely out of the woods yet. Big Dave has promised to fix something for me so that I can put the china in a new home...and that hasn't quite happened yet.
Oh, but it will. Trust me on this...