The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Emily Jensen here with my sister-in-law, Laura Wifler. Before we jump into our topic today we wanted to share that we have another awesome, free, new print from Give it Pretty and it's Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things that are above,” which is something that we like to talk about a lot here at Risen Motherhood. It’s keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and remembering the Gospel, and living in light of those truths, and not being controlled by our circumstances or the things of the earth. Go to our show notes to find that printable. We will have a link there. Remember it's free and you can find more from Give it Pretty at giveitpretty.com.
Laura: Today, we're talking about a topic that every single mom is going to identify with. We are talking about mom guilt.
Emily: Mom guilt is a topic we don't address very much and when we do as moms, our first response is we have so much false guilt. Let's move on and avoid that topic a little bit – but it is a very real thing – and it at least impacts me on a daily basis. It's a serious battle.
Laura: I don't know a mom that could say, “I’ve never felt guilt. I don’t feel guilt.” I think that would be a bold-faced lie. We can all identify, and what Em and I are going to talk about a little bit today, though, is differentiating between a true sense of conviction from the Holy Spirit that can feel like that guilt, versus self-condemnation and when it's false guilt because that's a question all moms have. It’s, "I have this feeling. What in the world do I do with that? How do I shake it off?" Not to break out into Taylor Swift [laughs] but I feel it's a huge question that every mom has. I have it all the time.
Emily: We're totally hoping today that this is at least is going to start some conversations. As all things here on our show, we cannot dive into the depths of what needs to be talked about with mom guilt and we're going to be way overgeneralizing. It's probably more complicated than fixed into one or two categories. We hope as you're listening and when you walk away, you’ll at least have a couple of ideas of what you should do if you're feeling trapped, because the truth is that regardless of whether you're experiencing some true conviction or false guilt, God does not want you to stay there. He does not want us to live in guilt. He wants us to walk in freedom. He wants us to believe the Gospel and to be at peace with Him. That is a really important thing to remember, that He wants us to do something with that, so that we can ultimately be at peace.
Laura: We're going to talk through a couple of personal experiences of things that we have had. I can't speak on behalf of Emily but the list is crazy long for things that I can manage to find guilt about during the day. A lot of times for me, specifically, I can get down on everything from not being that activity and craft mom, comparing myself to other moms and feeling bad that my kids aren't. I start going down the train and I'm like, “My kid won’t know his ABCs when he's 15 because I didn’t do something today,” or feeling guilty over yelling at my children or not speaking to them. (I mentioned before that I tend to get silent sometimes with my kids, but still just having like a wrong, immature, guilty heart attitude towards my children.) This one would be a good example of that self-condemnation that isn’t true guilt. Back when I was breastfeeding and I ended up switching to formula, I felt an enormous amount of guilt about feeling I wasn't providing. I wasn't being mom enough for my kids and that's a good example of false guilt, which we'll get into in a little bit.
Emily: I can relate to all of that when I feel guilt. I have petty things that I feel guilty about like, “I'm letting my kids watch too many shows and I probably shouldn't have fed them chicken nuggets for lunch today. I don't give my kids enough healthy food. I don't read them enough books and I don't put them in enough activities.” Then sometimes there's bigger things too that I feel guilty about, like I'm not consistent enough with discipline or as you mentioned Laura, I speak harshly with them or I raise my voice or I’m impatient with them. To me, it's everything from the small things to this general cloud of, "I'm a bad mom" and getting to the end of the day and feeling, "Wow, I did nothing good for my children today. I did nothing good for my family today," and feeling generally bad about that.
Laura: We can have it in what our schooling choices are for our kids. We talked about formula breastfeeding, cloth diapers, disposable diapers, being away from our kids too much, not getting them away from us enough and involved in other activities, discipline, screen time. Those things start to pile up and some of those, as we talked about, can be pointing to areas of change that you need in your life, but some of them are totally false. As Emily said at the beginning of the show, God doesn't want us to stay there. The first step in dealing with this guilt is – to deal with it. Don't just live with it. That's what a lot of us do. We complain about it a little or talk to our friends about it or let this cloud hang over us, this fog in our life and God wants us to bring that to the throne and evaluate it - what is this and what do I do with it?
Emily: The thing is we don't win if we stay there because probably one of the few things that’s going to happen is you're either going to grieve the Holy Spirit, and our conscience can become numb to something over a long period of time, if we don't respond to a conviction that God is trying to show us. Screen time for me, is one I've had to battle with because I feel for me that it’s a heart attitude thing sometimes. When I ignore that, I notice my conscience getting dull and that is not a good thing. That can happen or sometimes you can become depressed about your role as a mom and lose your joy. You can lose perspective. I feel guilt, and condemnation, and even unrepentant sin can poison your life. That's why we want to deal with it and move forward. We want to get more into what we mean when we say conviction versus condemnation.
Laura: A good way of looking at it is when we talk about conviction, it's usually specific. The Holy Spirit pricks our heart and you need to apologize for it. "I should not have reacted that way when my kid peed their pants again." "I should not have reacted that way when she told me about how those things that she does, and in my heart, I felt this prick of 'Maybe I need to to do better.'"
Emily: We have to remember conviction is sin and we can find those things in Scripture. It's usually either something overt like fits of rage, yelling at your children, or it may be a heart attitude that we know we weren’t being patient enough or we weren't worshipping God in this. I was worshipping in my comfort. Whenever we're feeling conviction from the Holy Spirit, there should be something scriptural to back that up verses condemnation. Maybe you're feeling guilty that you didn't throw your kid a very nice birthday party. There could be a heart attitude thing under there somewhere but most likely, that's a cultural expectation. That's not a scriptural thing that the Holy Spirit is likely heaping upon you.
Laura: It's usually an idea that you need to change your expectations about what motherhood is and what it looks like for you, and it's not fitting into the cultural mold.
Two is self-condemnation. It often leads back to you, like, "I need to try harder. I need to do better." It's one of those things that is trying to change who you are as a mom and not what you're doing as a mom. Self-condemnation leaves you in guilt and leaves you feeling defeated. It leaves you feeling totally condemned, whereas with conviction, it leaves you with hope. It leaves you knowing that there is a solution to these issues. It's something that says, I need to submit this to God, trust Him and obey and turn and repent in obedience and not continue doing this thing. Two, there's a feeling that's different. I feel we're getting muddy as we speak about this, Emily but the way that you deal with it feels very different.
Emily: Maybe if we try to give some examples. One time that I felt condemnation was when I was pregnant with my twins. I was put on bed rest for a month or so and I had my older toddler at home. He was 14 or 15 months and I needed pretty much full-time help. Anyone who's had a toddler that age knows they are super busy and I felt like a bad mom and I felt I wasn't doing enough for my older child. I felt I wasn't contributing to our household and I wasn't helping my husband, and I was being a bum, and my identity was so challenged. Even after I had my twins, for the first few months I was so occupied with feeding them, and it was a ton of work and I still felt I couldn’t be with my older child as much as I wanted to and I needed so much help. I felt so guilty during that season. I wasn't doing anything wrong. That was the situation and the circumstance God brought into my life that I needed to trust Him with.
I needed to trust that He was going to take care of those things and provide for me during those times. I needed to see that I was doing valuable things. I wasn't sinning. [laughs] As I looked back on that situation, I have just had to realize that was false guilt. That was not something that I needed to repent of. That was something I needed to trust God and then have freedom from because He was sovereign over that time in my life.
Laura: That's a great example of differentiating between what a true sin issue is and when the accuser is trying to make you feel guilty about things that are not true. For conviction, we've given a lot of examples of what those are, but I can get upset with my kiddos for whatever reason. There's shopping carts and they love pushing them around into everything and they're incredibly loud and often I'll lose it. I'm like, “This is way too loud kids, quit running into the back of the cart. I’ve told you so many times.” I can almost start to shame them. That's where I have felt a true like, “Laura, you need to go apologize. That is not the way the Bible asks us to speak to our children. That was not gracious. That was not self-controlled,” and it feels very precise and I know what to do with that conviction. I feel the Holy Spirit is literally saying, “Go apologize to your children and turn and don't do that again.” If you're feeling those things, that's something you need to act on and not just say, “I'll deal with that tomorrow or I'll sleep on it and then see what I'm going to do.” Those are things that are a true conviction from the Holy Spirit. That's where you need to deal with it. Let's talk through a little bit more. If it is conviction, what else do we do?
Emily: I like that you said, I'll deal with it tomorrow. It’s so common to think, "I'll do better next time," and when we find that we are in sin, and we shouldn't just brush that off. We shouldn't just say, “I keep repeatedly feeling I should be doing something about this every single time it happens. I'm feeling guilty but I want to ignore it.” If we look at it, we find there is sin there and we need to repent and turn back to God and say, “Lord, I need your help to overcome this sin. You hated this sin so much that your son had to die for it but I am reconciled to you. You’ve poured all of your wrath out on Christ and now we get to walk in freedom.”
That is such a wonderful, hopeful place to be when we can have peace with God again, and know that as we've talked about in previous episodes, that moment of sin does not have to define our whole day. It doesn’t have to define who we are as moms. We are defined by Jesus and that is freeing. Don't ignore it, because there is freedom on the other side of this and often I'm scared to look at my guilt and figure out what's under there. I don't want to know what’s down there but we need to know and then repent, and move forward because it's freedom.
Laura: So often, as moms, in our culture today it's not a sin issue. We don't want to hear every time it is going to be a sin issue because there are so many times where I know that I can feel this false sense of guilt for not measuring up to my next door neighbor, or this lady at church that’s sooo intentional, or whomever. I can feel this comparison trap of, "I'm not a gentle person, I don't speak sweetly enough, I don't talk to my children like her, I don't do things that she does, I didn't consider this deeply enough. Am I really evaluating my food choices to the most minute level?" We don't want you walking around feeling every time, it's going to be an issue. That's not true.
God does not want us to live there and thank God for speaking to us in those sin issues but also thank Him for releasing you from any false guilt and compare that Biblically. What does the Bible say? Does this line up with the Bible, that I need to care about this or I need to deal with this? If it doesn't speak to that then don't put it in there.
Emily: This is what we're saying. We hope that this at least starts some conversations or some trains of thought for you, because it may require you to get counsel from someone who's a little bit wiser and older, or a friend that you really trust because some of these things are matters of your conscience and what God has called you to do. Some of these things are as Laura has said, they are false. They are good things to do for our family but they're not things that we have to do. You need to lay those things down, but our big takeaway for you guys today is don't ignore your guilt. If there is something that over and over and over again, when you do it, you are just under a low lying, black cloud, figure out what is going on. Don't go another day where you do that thing and then walk in guilt.
Laura: Like Emily said, find an older, wiser woman that can look into your life and speak truth there because I know how hard it is to discern whether or not that's sin. I constantly battle where I can see Biblical basis for this, but I also feel I'm not sure. I don't have peace about that. Talking with other people and sharing your conviction will encourage them to take a hard look at themselves as well, especially if it's a fellow mom. It holds you accountable for whatever decision you make, and no matter what you're going to walk away in freedom, mom. If you are struggling under that guilt and you are feeling so heavy, as we keep saying, don't ignore it. Don't continue to feel bad. Don't stuff it down and don't run. Don’t write off for tomorrow. Examine it, understand it and walk away in freedom because that is what Christ offers to us. Any last thoughts, Em?
Emily: Just a reminder. We did not go deep into any of this. We barely scratched the surface but this is such a big topic. We wanted to start the process of talking through this. This is something Laura and I have wanted to talk about probably since the inception of Risen Motherhood and we had a sweet listener encourage us to start this discussion. Look forward to more on this and we will be providing more resources on the show notes of more in-depth and helpful things to do when you're experiencing guilt. Hopefully, this just started the conversation and gave you a couple of ideas, even if they were small, of what to do if you are struggling with guilt.
Laura: Thanks for joining us guys.