Let It Go

Laurie Buffo, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | March 21, 2024

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Psalm 130: 3-4

For several years, I have been on a journey to better deal with my undesirable emotions. I am learning not to fear them but to think of them as teachers. They are vital messengers, helping me understand my needs and showing me how to care for my soul.

Shame is the unhealthy sibling of guilt. I appreciate Brené Brown’s differentiation between the two. She says shame focuses on self. It says, “I am bad.” In contrast, guilt says, “I did something bad.” She points out that guilt is adaptive because it motivates us to fix things. Contrary to guilt, shame is destructive and cannot lead us to change.

Shame was once my constant companion because I believed it would help me become a better person. I would obsess over my mistakes, trying to see what was wrong with me so I could fix it. Brain science tells us we can modify our habits by observing our perceived rewards. So, I have learned to ask myself some questions when I feel shame. The first question is, “Does berating myself feel helpful?” After months of examining the results of wallowing in shame, I realized it does not. The only thing humiliating myself ever accomplishes is to make me feel awful. It even leads me to isolate myself from others, making things worse. I now try to view my sins as learning opportunities rather than proof I am terrible.

Next, I ask myself whether there is something I need to take responsibility for. Sometimes, I feel shamed by other people’s actions. When I recognize I am taking on something that belongs to someone else, I remind myself their behavior reflects on them, not me.

When I determine I am at fault for something, I figure out how to deal with it. Often, a confession and apology are enough. I come clean to God and others and express my sorrow. Sometimes, I also need to take action to correct my wrongs. Taking responsibility for my sins is not easy, but restoring my sense of integrity is worth it. Additionally, I ask God to remind me of the unpleasant results of my mistakes when I feel tempted to repeat them.

Once I have done all I can, the final step is to let it go. Today’s passage helps me: “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” Not one human on earth is perfect, so why would I be? The next verse reminds me that with God, there is forgiveness. My Creator forgives me, so I should be able to forgive myself. I can let it go and be an effective yet imperfect servant of the Lord! 

Next Steps

How helpful does obsessing about your failures feel? What holds you back from taking responsibility for your sins? Are you able to forgive yourself?