For every caregiver, guilt remains a seemingly insurmountable obstacle standing between us and a measure of peace in our hearts.
“There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.”
—Bill Waterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
In the face of overwhelming odds, we put ourselves in an often impossible situation, and keep doing it armed with little else than love—while spending blood, sweat, and treasure. I wouldn’t hang around somebody who treats me the way I treat myself, and I’ll bet you wouldn’t either. We treat ourselves mercilessly—thinking somehow because of guilt or whatever, we’ve got to push ourselves to the breaking point.
We’ve all heard the story of military drill instructors who look at a line of soldiers and ask for a volunteer. Then, everyone steps back—except the one guy who wasn’t in on the planned exit. He didn’t step back.
As caregivers, WE didn’t step back. We show up every day. Sometimes we do it well—other times, we make mistakes. Either way, our attendance record is perfect even if our service record isn’t. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we still beat ourselves up because we didn’t do it as well as we think we should—or somebody else thinks we should.
There is a word for caregivers to remember: Grace. To me, Grace is the most beautiful word in the English language. I married a woman named Grace. I love saying her name. As caregivers, we rarely give ourselves grace—to our detriment. Healthy caregivers make better caregivers, and we cannot exist in a healthy state when carrying the crushing burden of guilt.
As caregivers, we’re often so busy judging ourselves on our service record that we completely overlook our attendance record.
This kind of caregiver guilt isn’t about sins that get great press. Those things earn guilt. Rather, this type of guilt comes when a child is born with a disease or disability—or even something as simple as wanting to take a break for a day …or even a few hours. The list of things we mercilessly flog ourselves over stretches beyond the horizon, but none of those things help us live a healthier life. We’re no good to anyone if we stroke out or become impaired ourselves because we push ourselves to the breaking point.
Today is a good day to be a healthy caregiver, and that journey starts with extending grace to ourselves.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. —Hebrews 4:16