Guilty as Charged

I was born and indoctrinated a Roman Catholic. As you may of may not know it is a religion based on shame and guilt. It was baked into my life at an early age. Follow all the rules or go to hell. This wasn’t just at church but practiced at home too.

Church rules were hammered home every Sunday, at Mass and at Sunday School. Go to church every Sunday or go to hell. Do as your parents told you or go to hell. Do what the pope told you or go to hell. No opportunity was too small to miss. Don’t protest the government, don’t support equal rights for women, don’t support abortion. Nothing was ever about what you should do to find joy in life other than conformity.

You are baptized as a child with no option to choose. Then you are guilted into studying for your first communion so that you can eat god. You have to wear a suit and show your commitment to something you don’t understand at all, and it is worse for the girls who are taught to act like submissive little brides to be and are dressed accordingly.

Dressing up for your First Holy Communion

When boys and girls make their First Holy Communion (usually in second grade), it’s a big occasion for Catholic families. Like their Baptism or Confirmation, the day of First Communion is one filled with family, friends, and feasting after the sacred event has taken place in church.
Girls typically wear white gowns and veils and often look like little brides, and boys wear their Sunday best or new suits and ties bought for the occasion.

The children are generally too young to appreciate all the theological refinements, but as long as they know and believe that it’s not bread or wine they’re receiving but the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, then they are old enough to take Holy Communion.

Catholicism for Dummies

All of this of course was done because I was loved. Everyone wanted the best for me, well at least what they thought was the best for me. I was never consulted. They all loved me. Or at least they would if I just did what they wanted, because love is not unconditional, it required doing as I was told.

The dictum to be obedient was hammered home (almost literally) outside of church too. And the tactic of guilt was the main weapon just before physical violence.

I, however, mostly didn’t react they way that people expected, and certainly not how my family wished I would have reacted. I rebelled, now this didn’t mean that I didn’t feel guilty, I did and all the time. After all it was the primary emotion that I had been taught followed very closely by fear.

It turns out that I am stubborn and not afraid to think for myself and that turned out to be important for me in the path and choices I made. I would not bow to guilt or fear. Now I wouldn’t say that it was always the best choice because sometimes you chose to do something because you react in a consistent way to those emotions and not because of logic. You chose the opposite course of action because that is how you instinctively behave when confronted by those feeling and that can lead to a bad outcome.

So in a way my life and choices have been shaped by the very forces that I rebelled against. But regardless of that it is still how I behave today and likely will for the rest of my life. I refuse to be guilted into anything. It puts my hackles up and makes me as stubborn as Hudson the dog when he doesn’t want to go on a walk.

It has made me loathe people who wear suits and shun conformity even with the alternative sexual lifestyle that I lead. It has made be distrustful of rules for rules sake and makes me question authority in whatever form it takes.

So if you want to work with me on something in my life that might not be the best choice for me guilt is not the way to go. It sparks that little flame of resistance inside of me and turns it into a raging inferno and probably will lead me to just dig my heels in and do the very thing you don’t want me to do.

Even if it is because you love me.

I am 60 years old and very much a product of my life for good or ill. I am stubborn and cantankerous and ridiculous and changing needs to come in a way that I feel comfortable with. There are so many areas of life that it would be much easier to just play along with what others want me to do because “they want the best for me” and I don’t doubt that they do, but that would be giving up a part of who I have been and doing it not because I think it is right, but because someone else thinks it is right.

I have had many battles about these kinds of things, over pronouns in my profile and about content warnings on my posts. But you can always know that if I decide to make any changes, it is be I decided to make those changes and not just because I bowed to fear, guilt, or shame.

So I will remain guilty as charged and while I will still feel fear, guilt and shame keenly, it will not be the motivating factor in when and why I change who I am.

Michael

2 thoughts on “Guilty as Charged”

  1. This might raise the hackles but have you had therapy for that?
    Not that questioning things is a bad thing but you notice that it’s not always useful, that it causes you to make bad decisions sometimes and to dig your heels in and upset people who love you. It’s possible to retain that part of who you are but gain more control over it so you get to decide when you dig your heels in, rather than it being an automatic response.
    As much as I do think we should understand those we love and make an effort to communicate and love them in a way that suits them, I also think we have a responsibility ourselves to work on the parts of ourselves that make us ‘difficult.’

    1. Hi P,
      I am self aware enough to know it has caused me issue, sadly one of the things my parents did was to send me to a therapist to help me conform. It didn’t go well 🙂

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