Uniquely Inspirational

Chained by guilt

“Guilt can either hold you back from growing or it can show you what you need to shift in your life”

As I turn towards my dining room table I hear Serenity’s four paws hit the floor. I instantly know exactly where she has been, on my dining room table. “Serenity!” I yell with a mommy’s  mean voice. “Were you on the table again?” As alwasy she responds by guiltily tucking in her tail and walking slowly to her crate.

Now some would argue that she thinks you are getting after her for jumping from the chair and not the table. Well, she is certain now! I kept an eye out until sometime in late September I caught her on the table slurping some food my middle daughter had left on the table. Serenity was only 4-5 ft away when I ran into action as I yelled “Serenity! NO! NO!” She jumped from the table.

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Serenity, not wanting to look at Todd

I caught her mid-air and told her what a bad girl she had been! Well, that freaked her out. If she had any doubts about what she had been getting in trouble for. You better believe she has no doubt now! Yep! This doggie not only knew she was caught, but knows she is guilty, and on top of that she knows her punishment.

She hasn’t been near the table since. She had run, again with her tail tucked, to her crate feeling guilty and ashamed. She, in fact, stayed there quite some time. Funny, when I explained to Todd what she had done and he had looked over at her, Serenity would not even look at him… Yes, guilt is a powerful tool, even for dogs.

People are like Serenity. Yet people are different. We take guilt to a new level. Not only do we feel guilty when we are caught, and we are guilty, but become defiant at times for feeling guilt. (God forbid we are actually guilty). We hence have 2 different reactions in 3 three different forms:

1. We feel so bad that we take the road to change whatever caused that guilt by doing better and allowing it to change us for the better, or get better at hiding the feeling because if we ignore it, we can pretend it is just not there.

2. We respond to the person who caught us by apologizing and sometimes promise to do better (humbling ourselves) or being angry that they caught us and respond with hate as if it is their fault.

3. We admit to ourselves what we did wrong, and do not repeat it at all, or we simply refuse to allow it to change us, letting pride take over by telling ourselves we did nothing wrong… or worse, they deserve it…

So, either we feel bad, apologize and admit we did wrong, or we become defiant, blame others and justify the wrong.

These two opposite responses have a big impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. We create a void within ourselves or between “me” and “him”/”her”/ “them”. We wind up justifying what we did by blaming others or just by blaming the event itself. We forget the reason why “guilt” is a feeling altogether and we somehow blame the person for making us feel guilty. We somehow jump over the “being” guilty and right into “feeling” guilty. Somehow, it is someone’s else fault. Another words, we refuse to accept that we may be guilty after all and we wouldn’t feel guilty if that person wouldn’t point it out. Because feeling guilty is wrong. We refuse to realize it, but guilt has it’s chain around us and there is no escape.

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When we feel guilty..

Surely, not all feelings of guilt are due to something we have done wrong. It may be that we are innocent, but somehow got caught up in the web of someone else’s wrong. Yet, we can use the feeling as a way to learn how to be more careful. We may have made a decision that led to it, like running with the wrong people knowing that they like to cause trouble. (Some events occur around us with bad results without us having anything to do with it. Then it becomes a “victim’s guilt.”) Sometimes we just need to talk to someone who we trust and they can help us clarify the feeling of guilt. It is important to understand the difference here.

In reality, the feeling of guilt is our conscious bringing up the feeling we have done wrong, and therefore we may be guilty. That guilt is the process that we must go through in order to learn how to better make decisions that are RIGHT. Overall, we need to have that feeling of “guilt.” Just like “Fear” causes us to be careful, to pay attention and warns us when something may not be right, “Guilt” is the aftermath when our choices have been wrong. To ignore it, or blame it on others, (through anger and hate) is like a dog who continues to jump on the table regardless of the punishments, or one who actually snaps and bites it’s owner for getting after it.

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘“What? Are we blind too?”’ Jesus said, ‘“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”‘                        —John 9:40-41 NIV

Re-evaluating instead of ignoring (which, by the ways, leads to the feeling of anger), our guilt may be very difficult and painful at times, but in the long run, we become better for it. We need to be truthful with ourselves and see, “did I really do something wrong here” or is “so and so” making me feel guilty for something they have done. Either way, facing it strengthens us, helps us make better decisions and ultimately helps us have a more peaceful life.

Jesus himself teaches us the need to see the wrongs we have done, and admit them to God and ourselves. We must find the truth in forgiveness so that we wont be “guilty of sin.” He does not want us to be chained to it, but find freedom from guilt. This is where Jesus’ forgiveness is important. There is an extraordinary feeling when we have put that guilt to rest by evaluating it, accepting it when it is our fault and dealing with it. Resolving our feelings may take time, but is very well worth it in the end.

“.. let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  –Hebrews 10:22 & 23

Serenity relaxingI’m pretty sure Serenity has learned her lesson and now she will be happier because she wont get in trouble since she has changed her ways. Hopefully I can be even better than her and remember my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. I find peace knowing that I have gone through the evaluating process and no longer feel guilt.  If anything, I do hate feeling guilty, even more than dogs hate it when we tell them they have been “bad.”  So, as I go through my weird and unique life I will continue to be humbled enough to re-evaluate any guilt that may come my way. For me, the Holy Spirit places that unnerving sense of guilt when I go against God’s will. It is necessary in my life as it is in all of our lives. Without it we cannot change and be transformed for the better. Without knowing when we have gone astray we cannot grow or feel free of our guilt. My unique life needs to continue to go forward guilt free. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness that sets me free, and that unique peace that only You can give.

Uniquely Inspirational, Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem With False Accusations

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USA’s Freedom of Speech law.

I have struggled with my thoughts about what to write for almost 2 weeks now. It seemed the more I tried,  the more frustrated I became. As I observed, heard and read about the events around me, the more extreme the opinions around me got. The more confusion arose within me. People were becoming more angry and emotional with each story, assumption and lie spoken. An angry, hateful beast grew throughout. It soon became painful to watch. And although I truly believe in the freedom of speech, all I could see reminded me of the bullies, the accusers and even the attackers of long ago. Emotions rang higher than the information, and reason was swallowed by assumptions and accusations without evidence.

I have been on both sides of the stories in the headlines these weeks.

I was a victim of sexual assault as a pre-teen. I remember it still in every detail: who it was, when he came in, where I was, how old I was, the day, the soundings, what he said, how he looked at me,  those eyes, what he did, how I fought, what I did, who I told, what happened afterwards, how it changed me.  I have ALWAYS remembered, but I didn’t let it cripple me. As a teen, it happened again, an older man, exposing himself…. It was enough for me… and I made it a mission not to let any man make me feel small, weak, manipulated… I learned to avoid the situations where these types of things might occur. I was fearful, distrustful and always self-conscious. I stayed away from situations, and guys that I felt uncomfortable with. I learned to read the eyes… the dark, lustful and hungry eyes…

Then I remembered how GOD healed me, protected me, helped me overcome the pain, the fears and issues. But I never forgot how untrusting I became of men bigger than me. (Which is pretty much all of them). They made me feel intimidated. I learned to see anger, greed, lust and hate in their yes. That was my biggest impact. They became the lessons that shaped me throughout my life. Yet God had to reshape the events in my life in a healthy way so that I wouldn’t get lost in the grip of victimhood. I was shaped into a wiser and more gracious person yet guarded.

As a woman, over the years I have been followed, hooted, whistled, “invited,” you name it… it has been said to me… by men of all ages. backgrounds, cultures and languages. Just as it happens to almost all women. But it no longer bothered me, I learned to block it out and ignore it. At least, I told myself, they know I am a woman. (And as my husband pointed out, appreciate God’s creation :D)IMG_1100 - Copy

On the other side: I have been the victim of false accusations… several times actually… too many times… From childhood to adulthood….

I feel I must be an easy target, just as I was an easy mark for the older teen many years ago, who tried desperately to molest me. After all, I am small in stature, petite, always wanting to help, I have a great imagination, “naive” to some degree, and too compassionate, trusting and forgiving many times. All these led me to be an easy target when I was younger. I seem to draw the anger of people, their fears, insecurities and more.

Those experiences led me to be more feisty, making me stand up for myself, protect myself and become self-sufficient. This led to other types of false accusations… from the way I spoke, to my culture, to what I said (or did not), to my strong attitude… well… (I can tell you many stories from the last 30 years of my life but that would require writing a book). I had become, in their opinions, the one to blame for their mistakes, their feelings of guilt, their embarrassments, inefficiencies or just the easiest target. I have more bruises than I can count.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..” –Matthew 5:43,44

I was assumed a “flirt” because I was nice and hugged everyone. I was assumed a fake because I was smiling and happy most of the time. I have been assumed to be disrespectful because I was outspoken. I was assumed arrogant because I spoke with passion. I have been assumed too be many things, and falsely accused of anything (from being fake, to being arrogant, to not letting my husband minister, to being an uncaring mother, to not being christian enough and too Puerto Rican, and so on)…Thinking that if I somehow am forced to accept the blame (their responsibility), they will feel better and their life might become easier. Sometimes it was just to get me out of the way and replace me for one of their own. Sometimes it was just because things didn’t go their way…and so on. Yet the issues never did went away but their hate for me grew…

I realized one thing: I can overcome the sexual assaults, but the ones that followed me the most, the ones that gloom over me are the words of false accusations… that still hurts the most to this day. They came from people I trusted, I considered friends, people I thought loved God and colleagues. Their words always came with fear and anger….hateful anger… that cuts the soul…coming out of nowhere. Words that don’t make sense, exaggerations, lies and more. They just sneak up behind you when you least expected… and fire up in multiple ways.

The assault was the act of one person, he made me feel used, worthless and fearful. The unjustified accusations are the voices of many…. and they echo in my head. They destroy self-esteem, confidence, worth… they make you question who you are as a whole… it is the bullies from childhood multiplied by 10. They try redefine you, shaking your identity and your belief…. and suddenly you realize you are a victim all over again…and you feel you can’t fight back…

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
 Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” __ Matthew 5: 10-12

I have learned over the years that those heavy, fierce and accusatory assumptions have been based on many things: jealousy, fear, anger, dislike, hate, discontent, disinformation, lies and exaggerations.

Another realization came to me, how dangerous our assumptions of others can become. I understand that I too have assumed opinions of others. I have learned to give them the “benefit of the doubt” as often as possible. Ironically sometimes, I put myself  at a disadvantage to the point of being manipulated by doing so. However, it is still a better option. I would rather observe, listen, read and ask as many questions as possible so that I may avoid the false assumptions of others that many have rendered on me. I’m not always right. and sometimes I fail to do a complete job. Sometimes I do rely on my gut feelings verified through prayer, and information from trusted people. I try so hard to love and forgive the ones who do not love me. I give them the benefit of the doubt in hopes that things will turn around. But I have also learned to guard myself.

As Christians we will always be in danger of being “scapegoats,” the target of presumed guilt and more.  As a pastor, minister, or leader, we have giant targets painted on us, that at any time may be fired upon. The Enemy, Satan ( the accuser), will take advantage of using our own people, even “friends” to put us down. We become the target of unforseen attacks. We need to remember to stay strong, in prayer, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ. We need Jesus to get through those difficult days. It is important not to allow the attacks of others to overtake me and control my future or who I am.

So what do I do when I feel attacked by someone who is reflecting their fears, anger, jealousy, hate, insecurities or more, at me:

    1. After crying…a lot, (Being honest here), I PRAY and CRY TO GOD
    2. Raqui and Todd talkingI Talk to someone who I can trust spiritually and emotionally, someone who can remind me that God loves me and does not see me the way the attackers do. (For me is my husband and dad, both who are also ministers).
    3.  I read the Bible and find solace and peace in the words of Christ.
    4. I surround myself with those who do love me, my family and friends .
    5. I write my journey in a diary or journal, it seems to help me…. (I have heard that others use music, art or go to the gym to help them…. anything that will help you release the pain in a healthy way.)
    6. I REMIND MYSELF THAT I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, GOD LOVES ME, and GOD IS STILL WORKING IN ME.
    7. I stay connect to God’s family by being at church and events where the faithful can be found. (Let them also pray for you)

Eventually I see my painful, yet unique experiences, reshaping me. The trick is to let it reshape me into the person God wants me to be, stronger, wiser, loving and yes, graceful. And because I have been on the other side, more often than I like. I do my best not to let my opinions of others hinder them or me. I do my best to extend them love and grace as often as possible. I understand that the more they hurt you the harder it is… and this is where TIME is on our side. Because TIME does HEAL and GOD’s TIME is different from ours so… HEALING is VERY POSSIBLE.

I encourage you to search your hearts before you form any opinion or assumption of others. Remember, Christ came to forgive, not accuse, and if we call ourselves Christian we should be forgiving. I Also encourage you to search your hearts when you have fallen into the trap of victimization, whether it be physically, sexually, mentally or spiritually, as you heal. Let God be your HEALER. Let God be your VOICE.  Let GOD be that unique part of you that gives forgiveness, grace, and understanding of others. Be UNIQUELY JESUS as He reshapes you to be UNIQUELY HIS.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.”  –Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)