With apologies to the grand Ms. Winfrey, there are some things we all know for sure. I think it depends on where you’ve been… and where you’re going.
Perhaps, when you were around 7 or 8, you took candy bars from the closest convenience store without paying. You didn’t get caught. You were giddy with excitement as the chocolate pieces melted on your fingers on the way home.
One thing led to another and a couple of years later, you took a package of Barbie shoes from TG & Y without paying. A manager saw you and started following you around the store. You got scared and tossed them into bins along the way. He caught up to you at the entrance and asked you to come to his office. He asked you to empty your pockets. You did. No Barbie shoes. Phew. Close one. Maybe that scared the living potty out of you. Maybe not.
Maybe later, when you were a teenager, you and your best friend took the kind of fancy hairbrush you wanted from a department store. Or bandanas. Or clothes. Your family could afford them. That wasn’t the point.
Maybe you and your first husband took flags from real estate developments and hung them on the walls of your first apartment. The whole things… you know, with the long poles attached. You grabbed them and had to hold them outside the car, flags whipping in the wind. You laughed and laughed. Stupid prank, you told yourselves.
Maybe it was only me.
When did I learn stealing was wrong? Long before I took the first chocolate bar. I knew it the entire time. I did it anyway.
Ah, the center of the maze: I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway.
This is the crux of my entire life. And I’m still not sure why. I am nearing sixty years old and have spent the better part of my life in one kind of therapy or another… whether it’s with a professional or with my bookshelf of self-help trying to figure it out.
I’ve come to a conclusion. Here it is… get ready:
The benefit (or gain) of it (whatever it was throughout my life) outweighed the risk.
There are certain words that come to mind when you believe the gain outweighs the risk. I’m certainly not the first to say this so don’t give me the credit. Here goes: If you say, “Oh, what the heck/ hell/ shit/ fuck” or any incarnation of that phrase… watch out! Your inside is trying to tell your outside to STOP.
There have been many times — many, many times — when my gut said “This is wrong this is wrong this is wrong” and I did it anyway. I could give you a million, zillion examples. I’m not exaggerating.
Your gut never lies to you. You just have to find it. Sometimes it’s overpowered with other junk… like… “I deserve this” or “life hasn’t been fair” or “why do other people…?”
So, here’s what I know for sure.
My gut has tried to protect me. She has tried to keep me safe. She has tried to guide me away from bad people, bad decisions and bad parts of town and country… and I have not only ignored her, but stomped all over her to do (and get) what I want (for one of the reasons listed above).
My gut aches. It’s a body ache and an emotional ache, deep at the core of me. This is where guilt and shame live. Time to let them loose. We know better now. We deserve better now. We know what we need to do now. We’re gonna do it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written here. Do you stomp on your gut, too? Do you do things you know are wrong but tell yourself stories to make them okay?
Just something I’m thinking about today.
Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that some physical and mental illness can block the work of the gut. Prolonged pain and depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia, for example, can (and often do) tell you things that aren’t true.