Saturday, January 17, 2015

An Experiment With Guilt

I mentioned earlier that growing up I felt a lot of guilt, even when I hadn't done anything to warrant it. My brain would find on things to be guilty about -  telling a partial truth, thinking a swear word, writing a short journal entry, not fully kneeling for prayer, etc.. If I wasn't finding something to be guilty about and fix than I wasn't progressing, and progression was the purpose of life. This also made me hyper-aware of others' behavior - I saw him drink coffee, her shirt is too tight, I bet she drinks, I know that's a lie, he swears, etc..

All the rumors surrounding our courtship and union, and the denial of the sealing made me feel like I must have really done something wrong this time. Our wedding was more like a funeral because my family was in mourning about our non-temple wedding. I was plagued with guilt and was having a lot of trouble acclimating in the most simple ways to married life in my new community. I fixated on what people were thinking about me. It was difficult for me to go to the grocery store, walk the dog, apply for work, everything.

Finally a turning point came. I had a close friend from college who had also moved back to our college town because of marriage. She was in a similar situation except she was not Mormon, so she and her husband had started dating before his divorce, they didn't "wait" for marriage, etc. and their families were completely supportive. She was evidently happy, felt no guilt, and was fully integrated into the community. She had many friends, knew everyone in town, had a job in the community, etc.. The juxtaposition was stark. She had "sinned" in obvious ways to Mormons, but was perfectly fine, and I had been so careful not to "sin" and I was a guilt-ridden mess. I decided I was going to do a crazy experiment for a Mormon. I decided to stop reading scriptures and stop saying prayers where I would dwell on my shortcomings, and instead try to just be happy being me. It worked. Almost immediately. It has been a long time since I've felt guilt for anything other than hurting someone's feelings. I was shocked at how much better I felt. Clearly scripture reading and prayer help many, but it was also clear that it was not helping me. I am completely terrified to share this experience because I wish so much not to hurt anyone's feelings or beliefs. This is just my personal experience, and that's all I've got to go on, and maybe someone out there will relate and feel like they're not alone.


  1. That was totally my experience, as well, Mary. Hypersensitive to the bad and completely oblivious to all that is good about me! I'm a different person now knowing that my successes and failures aren't dependent on some superficial checklist. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Brittani, you are an amazing woman! - smart, sensitive, courageous, determined, creative, organized, etc.. I admire you in so many ways and hope you feel the joy of who you are everyday. Guilt free!