Archives For Guilt

When I sat down before a pile of old journals last month, I prepared myself for a barrage of adjectives and angst. The notebooks crowded around me like walls of a torture chamber—spiraled and thread bound ones, some covered with waxy Chinese paintings, others collaged with magazine cutouts. But I needed to fill some gaps in my memory and those journals held the clue. Two mornings and one headache later, I emerged, not only with the salvaged facts under one arm, but six surprising discoveries about myself under the other.


1. Some things never change. (A.K.A., I’ve always been a bit pretentious). 


The opening page of my first journal, which I penned around the age of ten, states, “In this journal I will write down all my memories from my early years.” For some reason, I thought that the story of getting my first bed from my grandparents’ basement ought to be saved for antiquity. 


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Like that diary, I bestowed a title page on every new journal I cracked open, inspired by the importance of the words I had yet to write. I find that propensity, which I still fight, embarrassing, especially given #6 below. 


2. My memory serves me well. (Or, at least it serves my ego). 


One of the “memories from my early years” shocked me with its rendition of a story I’ve told several times when proving the point that I’m an introvert. I’d cried at a birthday party in kindergarten because the piece of paper under my plate instructed me to sing “Jesus Loves Me”—clear proof that I’ve always been an introvert. But that wasn’t the whole story. My journal revealed that I cried, not just because of the song, but because I wanted my paper to say, “Spank the birthday boy.” Apparently, I wasn’t that much of an introvert Continue Reading…

I don’t really like confessing my sins. It’s a lot like going to the dentist, which I didn’t mind until last October. I sat in the exam chair, looking up at the X-rays and trying to process what my dentist was saying. Not me, I thought, not after thirty-two years. The tiny spot on the X-ray, though, refused to illuminate. My dental sins had found my out. After years of not flossing, I had a cavity. 


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The problem with confessing is that it requires us to face the decay inside. A pearly exterior doesn’t matter—how often we go to church or the amount of our charitable donations. Confession, like X-rays, looks for the evil rotting beneath the surface. 


Maybe we read our Bible several mornings a week and feel pretty “spiritual,” but that’s like showing up to God’s Dental with two rows of shiny teeth. He’s more concerned with what’s under the enamel. His radiographs might find that we’re rolling out of bed, not to hear from the God we love, but to manipulate him—we give up twenty minutes of our time and expect him, in return, to answer our prayers. Our devotions, held up to his light-box, might actually reveal self-centeredness Continue Reading…

The cop scribbled on his pad. “I don’t want to ruin your weekend,” he said. “So, I’ll run your card and let you off with a warning.” 


“Yes, sir,” I said, ducking my head. “Thank you, sir.” My head bobbed again.

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Photo courtesy of Areta Ekarafi via


It’s been years since I’ve bowed to anyone, but suddenly I was back in South Korea squeezing my way through the teetering shelves of the neighborhood grocery store and turning around at the door. I’d press my hands together, duck my head toward the owner, and say “Annyeonghi gaseyo” before heading out.


I’d forgotten all about bowing until this cop and his pen almost scribbled two-hundred dollars out of my bank account. Suddenly, the habit came back in full force.  

Habits scuttle through lives our like mice—they scurry out when we least expect and the little buggers are hard to kill Continue Reading…