Banning the Guilt Game
For countless individuals and families with children, September marks the end of one kind of chaos and the beginning of another.
In the summer, parents are taxed with the challenge to fill the stretch of long days with activity. Dotting many June-August schedules are the hottest (no pun intended) summer camps and vacations—planned with the hopes of rivaling those of their brood’s friends when they swap stories at their next play date.
Mostly gone are the days of endless summer fun. Of course, if you’re someone who, like me, can’t swim, fears water, hates the heat, and can barely manage a ride on a Ferris wheel without becoming paralyzed from motion sickness, “fun” is subjective.
At the onset of fall, the focus shifts to the balancing act of academics, extracurricular activities, and social circles—a complex juggling act for many. Parents have to manage this showground for their children as well as for themselves. And, this is in addition to their job. According to the US Department of Labor, in nearly 65 percent of married households with children both parents work outside the home. I used the term “showground” on purpose. The influx of guilt placed on parents by our culture adds a dimension to parental involvement that resembles a game of show and tell.
I should stress that I am strongly in favor of parent participation, but to what end? It simply isn’t possible for parents to be at all places at all times. Consider single parents who work a job in which they don’t receive sick time, personal days, or paid vacation. No work, no pay. Should they be racked with guilt because they literally can’t afford to take time off to chaperone an outing? Should they be made to endure the stink eye of judgment from parents who aren’t familiar with the details of the situation?
In Luke 6:37–38, Jesus admonishes us against judging others. Let’s apply this to all areas of our life, including our faith. It’s not our place to assess the level of church activity of our brothers and sisters. In Pope Francis’, bull of indiction on the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae Vultus, he speaks to the dangers of judging: “Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul….” Francis urges us to refrain from condemnation. To accept the good in everyone and in doing so, spare them suffering. Indeed, may we be a source of encouragement and support to all who we encounter.