“Things I Feel Bad About and Secrets”
4 March 2005
Updated 14 June 2005
For several years now, I have been attending Catholic Church even though I am not Catholic. I envy the Catholics because it is my understanding that if they go to confession, confess all their sins and the Priest says it is “ok”, their sins are forgiven and they are “clean” again. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Sins? If I am envious of the confession sin cleaning process that must imply that I have these sins I would like to confess and forget but really that is not the case. Not big bad sins anyway. But I do have “things”, memories, which I would not rather have, things I feel bad about and would like to confess, be forgiven and then have the memory of these “feel bad” things washed from my mind forever.
“Things I feel bad” about. Are they sins, if I feel “bad” about them? I suspect they are or at least they are things which fall below some standard of ethical, moral or other code I was instilled with during my youth or have otherwise taken on.
So, ok, if I could go to Catholic confession, what “feel bad about” things would I confess? Interesting question I had never asked myself and when I began to think about them, could only come up with 7 different things. How could that be? Only 7 “sins” or “feel bad about things” in over 59 years of living. Sort of shocked as I not willing to say that I have been all that good of boy all those years. Perhaps I do not really have the moral or ethical or religious code I thought I did. 7? Just too few.
Anyway, I have been seeing a talk therapist for some time now and thinking about confession and these things I feel bad about, I decided that I would try the confession thing using the therapist. He sort of like a Priest in that he can not tell anyone about what I say to him and so no concern that others might find out some things about me which could alter their views of me. But I have to say, confessing to the therapist really has not worked out like I hoped it would. Oh, I know he is not a Priest with the power to forgive, but I thought, perhaps, that if I actually announced aloud my “feel bad” things, there would be some magic in the release.
“Magic in the release?” What I wanted is for the “feel bad things” to be completely wiped out of my mind and for me to forgive myself for conduct unbecoming a decent human being. Confessing to my therapist got me neither but it did make it easier to confess my “Feel bad about” things to other people. Yep, seems like once I announced a “sin” out loud to one person, it has become easier to tell the next and the next. Don’t know, perhaps if I confessed to enough people then I would get my desired results of the “feel bad about” memories disappearing and I could forgive myself?
And what is a “feel bad about?”
(1) When I was 11 years of age, I joined the Boy Scouts and on one Saturday, the entire troop dressed in our uniforms and worked Main Street in our little town collect money for some charity. But somewhere in mid afternoon, one of the older boys in the group I was with, proposed we take some of the collected charity money and go to the movies with it. Although I would like to say that I objected in someway, I do not remember doing so and thus we did go to the movies using charity-collected money. “Feel bad about it.” Therapist says I can make up for it by contributing to charities now and I have. Actually I probably have repaid the money stolen on that Saturday when I was eleven, 10,000 fold, but no matter what I do, make contributions or confess to the therapist or now to you, the memory just will not go away and I still feel bad about what I did.
So back to Catholic confession. I wonder if it would be different if I could go to Catholic confession now and confess my stealing of charity money over 40 years ago. After confession and the blessing and forgiveness of the Priest, would I forget the theft and forgive myself? Somehow I doubt it.
7 things I feel bad about.
(2) When I was young, my father was given a German WWII rife to use for as long as he wanted by one of his friends and finding the stock to be thick and clumsy, he spent hours and hours each night for weeks, slowly thinning the grip about the trigger area. When he got through with his woodworking, the stock was a thing of beauty as the wood was walnut and he finished it like a piece of fine furniture. Anyway, over the years, if he and I should go deer hunting, he would lend me this old German rife to use as he had acquired much more powerful and accurate rifles and did not need to use the German rife anymore.
So on one hunting expedition, as was the usual ritual, my father and his brothers and a few cousins of mine, gathered in the mountains someplace in a large recreation vehicle several days before hunting season and had a great bonding experience and lots and lots of liquor. Anyway, so on this one hunting outing, on Sunday night before hunting season opened on Monday, the whole crew proceeded to drink bottle after bottle of hard liquor. I do not remember falling asleep or where but around 4am, I was awakened by my father and told it was time to get up and out there. Deer were waiting. And so, still so drunk it must have taken me 10 minutes to get one boot on, I stumbled out into the cold and the dark and started to make my way up a nearby mountain. Well I had not gone more than 50 steps when I lost my balance on the extremely rocky terrain and began to fall forwards. Instinctively, I held out the old German rife in front of me to break my fall and it did but then disaster. I had no more than gotten up off the ground and replaced my hand around the trigger grip area but I could feel bits and pieces of rock and looking closely in the dark, I could see all the scratches and dents which were now on the stock, put there from using the rife to break my fall. Oh, God, after all the work my father had done on that stock, how could I ever show him and tell him? Thought about it on and off all day and rolled over the drunk-as-a-skunk defense but knew that would never fly since everyone out there from our crew certainly had been in the same shape or perhaps worst off them I was, when we set foot outside the recreation vehicle that morning. And so you know what I did. I took the chicken’s way out and did not tell him. Upon return to camp that evening, I simply slipped the marred rife back into its soft carrying case and zipped it closed. Delay if you can, I guess was my thought.
Anyway, several years went by and he never ask me about it. I guess in those years, although I had not forgot about it, I did feel bad I could not tell him like any real man could or would have done but was happy that it had not come up. Perhaps he had discovered the damage but thought perhaps it had occurred while being transported one time or another. No such luck. Although it might have been 5 or more years and I do not remember specifically where and when, but one day, he asked me about the rife and without hesitation, I told him the truth. Guess I could have lied but honestly believe he would have known I was not telling the truth and what would have been the point to that? He did not say much. Did say he wished that I could have told him when it happened and I had to agree. In a way, I think the fact that I could not tell him immediately after the rife stock was damaged hurt him more than the actual damage to the rife. So ok, now confessed twice or more times and yet, the memory lingers on and I still feel bad about what I did. Not bad about damaging the rife as that was an accident but the fact I could not be a man when I should have been able to be one, for my Dad.
So does everyone have “things” they feel bad about? Are the 2 things I defined above sins? Feel bad? Sin? Same thing? If it hangs around and hangs around, guess it has to be a sin although have not taken the time to pigeonhole each of the 2 feel bads defined about into a specific Biblical commandment or anything. What? How about, “Thou Shall Not Steal?" and “Honor your Mother and Father”. Sins I guess they are and I sugar coating them all this time by calling them “things I feel bad about!” Now, right now, that seems like a separate sin in itself. Not wanting to face the fact that I have sinned.
After speaking, confessing, some of my sins to my therapist I actually talked to a friend about this whole topic and she had to rush right home and make out a list of her “feel bads” as apparently I made her feel bad that she had never compiled a list of all her “feel bads”. And when I told her I could only come up with 6 on my list, she told me I must be saintly and I told her, I was worried that perhaps my sense of right and wrong was all skewed somehow to have so few on my list.
I think I am basically a good person but suspect that if you ask everyone you meet, they would say the same thing about themselves. I do know that I have never consciously wished ill on another person and I have the impression that some other humans do or have done this. Wish ill on others. But this does not mean that through my actions, I have not wounded others and I feel bad about it.
(3) Years ago, things were rough at home and I had decided I need to leave for a while, maybe even to separate from my wife and so one day I came home when I thought no one would be there, to pack some clothes and leave a note. The old chicken’s way out. But the house was not empty. Unfortunately, going in the door I ran into my middle daughter who was 10 or 11 then and she knowing that things had not been good at home and seeing me load the car with some clothes, ask me where I was going. When I told her in as calm a voice as I could, she broke out into tears and pleaded with me not to leave and the look of terror and anxiety in her face that day, will haunt me all the rest of my life. I had not meant to hurt her in any way but I did.
(4) When I was in college, one Saturday, a classmate I knew came by my room and said that his girlfriend had just driven up from Maryland and she had two girls with her and was I and my roommate interested in blind dates? Yes, no, ok. So we went and as we walked to the reception area to meet the girls, the classmate with the girlfriend said that he did not care much for one of the friends his girlfriend had brought along because she was too wacky, but the other one was fine and "put out". Anyway, my roommate took Ms. Putout and I got the wacky one. I do not know what the 2 friends though going to a college would be like but I suspect they were told that college boys only wanted one thing and Marsha was pretty standoffish to start with but as I talked with her and got to know her some, I liked her and I think she liked me. At any rate, by the end of the weekend, she and I were pretty close although nothing happened between us. And now what I feel bad about. The very next weekend, the same classmate who set me and my roommate up with blind dates again comes to our room and this time says that Marsha has come with his girlfriend to see me cause she likes me so much. This classmates, such a wise ass, did not care for him at all and honestly I though he was trying to get me to be a fool and get dressed and go over to reception to find no one there. So I did not go to reception and it turned out that Marsha had made the trip with her friend and Marsha hung around for hours waiting for me to show up. I did not mean to hurt this girl who obviously cared for me or at least wanted to see more of me but because I was so concerned about being made a fool of by this classmate, I did hurt her feelings and deeply. Oh, I did see her again and wrote her but the damage had been done. I know she wanted to become an actress and I can only hope she did.
Confession good for the soul “they” say.
So now I have given you 4 of the 7 things I feel bad about. Will I give them all to you? No. But I will tell you that I feel bad not only about some things I have done but also about some things I have not done. How could that be?
(5) Over the years, I have received a phone call, or other request, which translated clearly into a request that I come visit or share time with one person or another. There was no disguising their need for my company or companionship, yet, for one reason or another, and usually it was due to my single focus mind and not wanting to disrupt my workflow, I did not provide what I should have. I remember one time, perhaps only a year before my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer that he actually called me, which was rare, and wanted me to go with him to the Worlds Fair. I could have, I should have, but I didn’t. I missed a great opportunity to be with my Dad for an extended period of time one-on-one and he clearly wanted, almost pleaded, for me to join him, but I told myself that I couldn’t. Too many responsibilities I could not drop and in my defense this was true at the time, but I could have made it work and just didn’t. The same is true with phone calls or letters from other family or friends. It was obvious from the letter or phone call that they needed me to be with them and I did not go. I feel bad about it.
I feel bad about many of the thoughts I have. I think they all fall in the realm of fantasy thoughts and being human maybe we all have them, I do not know. I do remember hearing that a bad thought is as bad as committing a bad deed. Remember former President of the United States Jimmie Carter saying that he had committed adultery in his mind and that it was as bad as if he had actually committed adultery. In my case, I encourage my creative mental processes and thus should not be surprised when fantasy comes along for the ride but I still feel bad about some of the thoughts I have. Again, these thoughts are not in the realm of ever wishing ill of someone or something bad happening but if I feel bad about them, then they are wrong. Shameful to say but most of my fantasies have to do with having sex with various women I meet. Too much testosterone for my own good I guess, but that does not explain it either. Have heard that men think about sex all the time, well it sure has been the case for me but think it has gotten in the way of me having some decent, in-depth, relationships with women I would have liked to have known better as friends, because I could not get past the thought that they could sense my sexual desire for them.
Thinking about it, wish there as some way to actually fix what I feel bad about. Therapist says contribute to charities to make up for stealing charity money and although I have, just has not brought any real relief and to be clear, I have not given money to charities to bury my feel bad or try to fix it as I am sure this method will not or does not work.
“Feel bad about.” When I got to thinking about the things I would like to confess to a Catholic Priest and came up with the “Feel Bad” list, one thing did not want to fall into the list but rather seemed to have its own category and that was secrets.
Does every one have secrets? Things one absolutely cannot tell another living soul, be it a Priest or not? Above, you have seen me confess several of my sins but I have not exposed my secrets. “Exposed.” That word just popped into my head and sure seems to be the absolutely correct word to use with secrets. Secrets are like “things you feel bad about but they are hidden under rocks or something.” Not sure if my secrets are really sins or not but suspect if they should come to the light of day, would serious taint how others view or feel about me. Oh, not to worry, I have never murdered anyone or anything horrible like that.
Thinking about it, I wonder if everyone has one or more secrets and wonder how something, some event, some thought, something gets classified as a secret and locked away from any possible exposure?
Actually, when I was discussing my “Things I Feel Bad About” with my Priest-substitute talk therapist, finally revealed a secret to him. Again, he cannot tell anyone else, so I not worried that it will come to light and kind of nice to dump at least an ounce of it outside myself. But, still not ready to take out a billboard along the highway and place my secrets up there for all to see.
So end in the end, I not sure any of this, the discussing with my talk therapist, thoughts about bad feelings, secrets, writing about it here, any of it, has actually taken any of the burden, guilt, whatever, of these things off me. Perhaps there is just no way for the sins of action or the sins of non-action or the sins of thoughts, to ever be lifted from us and I can understand that and I am ok with it but I guess what I would really like is to just forgive myself.