Words and phrases that may have begun as an original thought with an apparent obvious meaning and intent, after constant use, misuse, and abuse, over time become catchphrases and buzzwords with thoroughly ambiguous meanings. Thinking “outside the box” was the hot business concept in the late 1990’s. Through the years, the expression has been bandied about and used in advertisements and press releases to represent ideas and supposed innovations that, in the end, were not so out of the box after all. All anyone succeeded in doing was expanding the box.

“Whatever” was originally used having to do with making a decision. As in “get a Coke or a Dr. Pepper or whatever you want.” Or ” it has to do with Kleenex, napkins, paper towels, or whatever.” Currently the word is most often used to mean “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Or a sign of being noncommittal. Our teenagers and their friends use it when they have gotten themselves in a conversational hole and do not want to admit it. “Whatever!”

The phrase “don’t guilt-trip me” gained prominence in the 1960’s with accusations that the “establishment” was trying to lay a guilt-trip on the middle and lower classes. While I sympathized with some of their positions, I disliked the phrase even then. It is more distasteful to me now when my children use it toward me. What the phrase actually means is “I know I’ve screwed up a lot (or owe you a lot), but I don’t want to be told that, I want to get what I want.”

Other variations could be applied, but that is the gist. More often than not, what they refer to as guilt-tripping is actually telling them the truth. For example, one of the boys asks us for something that requires financing from us. When we go down the list of things they have already received no return effort – even though that was the arrangement- we are now required to add “and I’m not trying to guilt-trip you, just telling you the truth.” Beat them to the punch, as it were.

I grew up under the impression that it was easier to keep problems and debts to a minimum rather than endure the bothersome situation of feeling bad. It is our conscience that causes us to feel remorseful. Other people cannot make you feel bad – or guilty – if you have no reason to feel bad in the first place. But most of us feel shame over past indiscretions of one sort or another. In addition to a natural inclination to get defensive when being told we are being selfish. Because, on some level, we are all being selfish. But we would prefer not to admit it or have it made public.

Which led me to wonder if sometimes we do not try to guilt-trip God. As if making a list of our Christian “accomplishments” will persuade God to lend a special hand and eliminate our particular situation. A situation which seems important to us, but in God’s grand scheme of things is quite minuscule. Yet we have the audacity to think that we could have possibly done enough good in our lives to not only outweigh our myriad of failures, but move us higher up on God’s to do list.

“Where are you, God? I go to church every Sunday, well, most every Sunday. I attend Sunday school. I am at the Wednesday dinner s. I read the Bible every day. I pray every night for everyone on my prayer list. I try to be kind to everyone. So why am I stuck in this situation? Why will you not help me?”

God did not put us in the situation we are in – we did. We may not have been the direct cause of our current malady or tragedy, but in some way we had a hand in it. Regardless of whether we were a part of the cause or had little or nothing to do with it, God most certainly was not the cause. Why are we blaming him and ridiculously trying to make God feel sorry for us and give us the outcome we want. We do not want the outcome that God wants or the outcome we may deserve. We want the outcome we think is best.

Just like our teenagers. They do not want to hear the truth. They want to be told they can have things their way. Telling them the truth is guilt-tripping them. We are alongside our children when we ask God for help. We do not want to be guilt-tripped by being told the truth or what is best for us. But we know in our hearts and souls that God wants the best for us. So why are we trying to blame and guilt-trip God?

In trying to guilt-trip God, and when our teenagers try to guilt-trip us, one thing is overlooked. It is, in fact, what is wrong with the term guilt-trip in the first place. It also renders the term irrelevant. And it is quite simply this: you cannot guilt-trip a truly innocent person – or being – as the case may be.

Peace be with you.