When Guilt is Really Sadness

I have a lovely 20something friend who is the daughter of two sucky parents. I am making this judgment after watching their behavior towards her for the past two plus years and hearing her stories from growing up. These parents are selfish, wounded, and don’t know how to even be grateful for their lovely daughter. Sadly not all parents are good.

Just recently her mom, once again, did something awful towards her “beloved” daughter. This is such a sad situation.

However my friend wasn’t feeling sad, she was feeling guilty. Guilty for not being a good daughter. Guilty for maybe doing something to cause her mother to behave so badly. Guilty for the traumas her mother has gone through—traumas that the daughter herself did not cause.

This guilt is misplaced. What she really feels is sadness. Sadness that she has a bad mother. Sadness that her own mother would do such things to her. But to admit this sadness to yourself is so hard. No one really wants to admit the truth that one’s parent is so wrong and selfish. That one’s parent is so far from ideal. That one’s parent does not love unconditionally. It is easier to feel misplaced guilt than the truth that this is really sad.

The truth is she has bad parents and the sadness comes with the realization that she wishes she had good parents. Guilt means she wishes she had supportive parents and that she disappointed them with a behavior she did. But she did nothing. Yet again. It is easier to take on this false guilt than realize the true sadness that she has sucky parents.

So pain is the beginning. This is sad and it hurts deeply. From this sad point she can now walk forward to develop endurance which leads to strength of character. (Romans 5:3-4). It is in this strength of character that she can create proper boundaries for her parents. To find that place where she can be their daughter but not have her happiness hinged on their returned love. This growing strength of character becomes her Plan B to find hope for her future as a young woman and wife and future parent.

I’m cheering her on. She is worthy of writing a different story for her future children. She is worthy of having joy in her marriage. But it starts with reminding her that she is not guilty but that she is sad. Pain is the beginning.