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I wish guilt washed away

“Guilt does not change the past.

“Guilt does not make the future better.

“Guilt does not help others or ourselves.

“Guilt does not fix problems.

“Guilt blinds us from the ability to change, grow and improve.

“It’s time to let go of guilt.”

— Jessica Ortner

It was hard not to notice.

My wife and I spent an hour recently ringing the Salvation Army bells at a local store. Amid friendly greetings and plenty of smiles, I heard it, saw it, felt it.

“I am so sorry. I don’t have any money to give,” said one person who spoke to us with her face down.

We assured her it was OK, that there is no obligation and that we were simply there to smile and say hello to those walking in and out and only those compelled to give should give.

Despite our best efforts, she shuffled into the store with her head down.

Others passed by quickly, on a mission, not making eye contact. They probably simply didn’t have change rattling around in their pockets, but you could tell they felt bad. Others apologized for not giving.

“No problem. Have a great day,” we said encouragingly to each person in that situation.

I felt the guilt dripping from some of those people. And I feel sadness even more often when I go about.

You can just feel the hurting, sometimes.

This is a time of year when guilt creeps in. Did I get my kids enough presents? Am I doing enough for others? Have I made enough time to satisfy everyone in my family?

One of the things happening in our society is that we constantly feel we are not good enough. The proliferation of advertising and social media paints perfect pictures that force us to clearly see what “perfect” looks like.

That family vacation looks amazing! Why can’t we do one like it? That family sang carols for shut-ins last weekend! Why was I sitting in my PJs on the couch? The kitchen on that home show looks perfect and everything has a place in that home! Why does mine constantly look like a tornado went through it?

We live in a competitive world, where in school or in work or in activities we are constantly ranked against our peers. That ever-present competition, coupled with the subtle competition that social media, marketing and entertainment pumps into our heads, creates a picture. That is a picture of perfection, and it doesn’t take very long to realize we all fall very short of that.

The problem is that we can’t do it all or have it all. Nobody is the best at everything and real life looks nothing like a Facebook post or model home on HGTV.

Betsy knows I say this a lot: “There is only one Jones family, and we ain’t it.”

I think our society’s pressure puts many in a place of guilt. We see the measuring stick so frequently that we’re constantly telling ourselves we don’t live up to it.

In this Christmas season, I hope you find peace rather than guilt. I hope you find grace rather than disappointment. I hope you find rest rather than restlessness.

I believe that Jesus came to this Earth to provide us hope, and, on his shoulders, he carried a cross weighted by our guilt, our struggles, our not-good-enoughs.

To me, that is the hope of the season. I am not perfect — the world is very good at telling me that. But I don’t have to be, thanks to my savior.

You are good enough. Your shortcomings do not define you. I think it’s time we flipped that chasing of perfection on its head. What if we focused on the fact we are all doing the best we can and focused on the small things we can do for others.

Love, listen, forgive. Spend time with family. Do what you can to care for the needy. Count your individual blessings. Our example is right there in front of us this Christmas season. May the guilt wash away like a flood and may we feel inner peace, contentment, and love.

Alpena native Jeremy Speer is the publisher of The Courier in Findlay, Ohio, the Sandusky (Ohio) Register, The Advertiser-Tribune in Tiffin, Ohio, the Norwalk (Ohio) Reflector, and Review Times in Fostoria, Ohio. He can be reached at jeremyspeer@thecourier.com.

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