Every so often my neighbor Marie will send me a text to see if I want to go for a hike in the woods behind our home. On the days I am able to join her, I never regret it. Even in the sub-freezing tundra, we trudge through the hills, snow, ice, and fallen branches to be somewhere that is more nature than man for a precious little while. We swap tales of laughter and desires, healing and heartbreak, and the words we share leave pleasant markings on the trees, but remain in that sacred space.
Our furry little friend Jack comes along with us (see below), and he is the happiest kid on the planet. He’ll sprint ahead and then sprint back and look at us and run away and basically operate at ten thousand miles an hour. He is high-energy, and a welcome companion.
This week was the first time I went out there by myself with just Jack. I will be taking him out while Marie is gone, so I wanted to give it a test run. Initially I was nervous to be out in the woods, just the two of us, but Jack is a pretty vicious fellow when he wants to be. Safe.
Instead of remaining on the main path, I sauntered down a side trail that Marie and I frequent. We are less likely to run into others that way, and I was craving the peace and power of the pine. As I rounded a corner and fought up a hill, I realized that Jack had run off a bit. He was not too far—I could still see him—but I felt that unwelcome friend fear trickle in. So, I called to Jack “Come Jack! Come ‘ere Jack!” He looked up at me as if in hesitation, and then sprinted towards me with enviable velocity.
Then guilt showed up. Immediately, I started saying to myself, “Oh man, I feel bad! I pulled him away from that interesting plant he was inspecting. Shoot.”
I’m not kidding, I started feeling guilty for calling over my guard dog. With ample animal lovers out there, I am sure I am not alone. I stood there for some time contemplating this notion. First, I sent some gratitude out there for blog inspiration. Then I contemplated what had just happened. I felt badly for asking something of an animal who lives entirely in the moment. Essentially, the only thing important to Jack is what is happening right this second. Unlike humans who have the blessing of being able to gather such thoughts, dogs lack (at least as far as we know) the cerebral cortex that gives us this ability. Guilt does not even register. Neither does being mad for being called to do something, if the moment has passed by.
I want to free myself from unnecessary guilt.
More and more I am realizing how many of us live in this guilt complex. If someone buys us something, we feel bad. But I didn’t get you anything?! I didn’t know we were exchanging gifts??? If we say something wrong, we hang on to it for days. We cannot accept compliments without knocking them down. Oh, no, you look like you’ve lost weight! We rush to answer email and phone calls and texts so that no one is waiting. We feel guilty asking advice, for help, for someone else’s time, for love, for breath.
And how frustrating is it when someone wont accept a compliment?! So frustrating.
I have realized that it all comes back to one thing: worth. Self-worth. I am worthy of help. I am worthy of friendship. I am worthy of being told I am pretty, I am smart, I am fun. I am worthy of love.
If you are worthy of the compliment, then there is no reason to feel badly about it.
A little exercise for those suffering from a guilt complex: next time you receive a compliment or a gift, sincerely say, “Thank you” and move on. You are not allowed to return the favor or provide a courtesy compliment. You are more than worthy of being told you are spectacular. Watch your ego squirm.
Why not me? I am worthy.