Bulimia and Guilt’s Circle of Death
If it is true that guilt and self-hate can never liberate, then why is it so easy to hire the two for the job of freedom? Often we do so without thinking about it – at least I do. They are the two that I quickly and easily fall back on if I am not mindful and purposeful in the moment. You want to be free from purging? Guilt-trip yourself into stopping by telling yourself just how selfish and self-focused you are and how you are ruining relationships and missing out on your marriage and children’s lives. You want to stop binging? Tell yourself what a failure you are and how you are so disgusting. This way of speaking had become so natural and normal that I really failed to identify it and call it out. And, in fact, it is still a way and pattern of thinking I slip into when I am not taking measures to think a different way. It is so easy to do this with ourselves, and yet we know intuitively that to employ such means to motivate our children is base, destructive, harmful (and maybe borderline abusive?).
Guilt and self-hate had never been enough to motivate me to break free from Bulimia’s grip. It had, in fact, ensured my defeat. Guilt’s leash would, for a while, give the impression that headway was being made, but always, in the end would rudely jerk me back to the beginning. Guilt promises victory. Guilt speaks persuasively saying that it holds the key to freedom. And it seemed to make sense. If only I felt guilty enough…if only I felt enough shame…then I certainly would not do this anymore. But Guilt’s pathway, rather than taking me away from my shame, never took me anywhere except around and around the very place I was trying to escape. As I would lay awake at night I would invite Guilt and Shame to speak. And they always showed up with the same message. “I can’t believe you failed again. What a loser. How can you claim to be a believer?!” Guilt never brought me any closer to my goal, and freedom struck in the very moment where I experienced forgiveness. When I was embraced by His acceptance and surrounded by His love, in a moment of absolute failure, I finally was liberated from guilt’s circle of death.
It is an amazing thing to realize what had seemed so counterintuitive was the beginning of freedom. Away with guilt! Away with shame! Away with wallowing in remorse. Away with Guilt’s ugly finger sending us to cower in the corner. Guilt has no power over us. Guilt and shame ensure their own longevity; they never want to work themselves out of a job. And, in fact, one sure way they do this is by wrapping around themselves a false cloak of humility. They get us to think that we are somehow being humble in belittling ourselves and focusing on our failures. But this is the opposite of humility. Humility drives us to the end of ourselves and to the all-sufficency of Jesus. Using guilt and shame to motivate us and deliever us is Pride at its best. It’s first and last glance begins and starts with ourselves. Don’t let it trick you into thinking it is saintly, for it is, indeed “Satan-ly”.
So, what do we do then? Where do we go from here? We stand. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1. Let us stand in His forgiveness. Let us stand in His righteousness. Let us stand in His unconditional love. Let us stand in freedom. What depths of joy there is in freedom! How it draws us with its beauty. No charge can be brought against us. Guilt and Shame can no longer send us slithering back to the self-introspective corner. We are freed by His blood. We are secure in His love, that never fails. His righteousness! His perfection! His faithfulness!
That is why Romans 8:1 continues to bring me to tears. “No charge!” Not any charge! Not one. But even so, Guilt and Shame are waiting for their moment once again to keep us from lifting our eyes and standing. In false pride we would cling to them, thinking that by just enough guilt or by just enough shame we can somehow make ourselves pay for what we’ve done – that somehow by embracing guilt and shame we would make ourselves worthy, make a righteousness of our own. But it is rather through humility and shouting Jesus as worthy, Jesus as victor! Jesus has paid our price! Jesus has died our death! Jesus has risen and sits at the right hand of God, so that we may stand firm. This is the place of freedom. This is the place of joy. May it look beautiful to our children and may it look attractive to others as we stand firm in freedom.
Let us drop our trowel in the mud, and turn to the holiday at the seaside being offered to us. He is better. He has born our guilt and shame. He is good. He is faithful. He is beautiful. And there is no greater freedom and joy than found in Him.