“What if?” Guilt Trips

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!”~John Greenleaf Whittier

“What if?” is a very special kind of fundy guilt trip because comes from nowhere, contains nothing but imagination, and can be used on anybody about even the most innocent of activities. Consider…

What if instead of buying that candy bar you had instead given the money in the missions offering? What if that very dollar was used to print the tracts that went to deepest darkest Africa and converted the local medicine man to Christianity and caused revival to break out across the entire continent? But alas, you chose the candy. So now we’ll never know.

What if instead of sleeping in on Saturday you had spent an extra hour praying for your lost family member? What if that snooze button was all that was standing between their soul and eternal damnation? A little sleep, a little slumber, and now you’ll always have to wonder if you could have done more. You probably could.

What if you had dug deeper, pushed harder, or fought better? What glorious opportunities may have been had! What souls could have been won and empires built! But alas, poor craven soul that you are, you did not.

Guilt trips on the Subjunctive Highway. They’re a thing of beauty.

260 thoughts on ““What if?” Guilt Trips”

  1. One Thursday night, I decided to stay behind at the church and “goof off” (my dad’s words, not mine) with the other kids while my parents, the other grown-ups, and the good, spiritual teens went on regular Thursday night door-to-door visitation, an activity I always dreaded but still usually participated in out of guilt. While “goofing off” I fell and dislocated my elbow. When my parents returned and learned of my injury, my dad’s ONLY comment was, “If only you had been on visitation where you belonged instead of goofing off, this would not have happened.” In my beaten-down teen brain, I actually believed he was right. That happened 35 years ago, and I still question whether I am exactly “where I belong” at any given moment. If only my elbow would pop out of joint every time I’m tempted to goof off. That would be very useful…since my dad isn’t nearby anymore.

    1. The only thing worse than your dad’s connection between “goofing off” and the injury would be to believe that God is really petty like that. No, you got the injury BECAUSE you fell….not because you didn’t invade someones private time unannounced that evening. (whoever came up with the “visitation” idea should be flogged)

    2. When my daughter was two years old she dislocated her elbow while holding my wife’s hand in the church lobby after the Sunday evening service. Tell me, who sinned…. ๐Ÿ™„

      1. Was she wearing pants at the time, or could she have had thoughts of wearing pants or even a skirt with a slit above the ankle? Those would be good reasons. Sometimes others get punished for our sins.

  2. For me, it brings to mind this quote from C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian. Lucy missed a chance to go to Aslan, and now she’s beating herself up for it.

    “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right รขโ‚ฌโ€œ somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

    “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

  3. What if the millions of frequent-flyer miles you’ve banked from your myriad guilt trips were only redeemable on future guilt trips?

  4. “More… More! By and by when I look on His face, I’ll wish I had given Him more!” A sermon that had me in tears. I even bought the cassette tape later. Somehow being in tears feels like you’re getting somewhere with God. Actually it was just more guilt upon guilt; leaving the tear-filled place only to fail once again out in the world.

  5. What if Keanu Reeves is actually a talented actor and we’ve all been had?

    What if he is the lovechild of Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder?

    What if George Lucas would’ve just stopped at episodes 4-6?

    What if John Travolta, Oprah, and Tom Cruise really are gay?

    What if SFL keeps getting more commentators like John?

  6. What if Peter Ruckman was right all along, and GMT REALLY indicated the perfect geographical zone (aka. England), the KJV was that on which the universe holds and demons are the size of a mosquito? ๐Ÿ˜›

  7. One of the biggest causes of stress and fear while growing up was the thought that God had one very specific and narrow path planned out for my life. I feared that the slightest wrong decision could send me careening from that path and out of His will. I would agonize over the tiniest things, certain that any hope I had of a good future rested on making the right choice. It’s certainly a process to leave that way of thinking and I still find my self back there sometimes. Great post.

    1. Haunted by the specter of God’s Second Best. Bean there, done that, torn the T-shirt to shreds

  8. “What if” goes along great with “Why wouldn’t”, as in, “Why wouldn’t you want God’s perfect will for your life?”, or, “Why wouldn’t you want to live in sinless perfection without known sin for the rest of your life?”

    Perfect. Rhetorical. Traps.

    1. I want to know where in the Bible “God’s Perfect Will for Your Life” is mentioned? God’s will is mentioned several times, but not the ultra-specific “don’t mess up or you’re out of God’s will!” way people make it to be.

      One of my friends in Sunday school was talking about how we shouldn’t pray for God’s will, because it will happen no matter what. It’s His will! But we should take a step of faith and pray for things anyway. Pray that our sick family member will get well. Keep praying that a child will decide not to rebel anymore. Pray that God will supply the money you need to be able to go on an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip.

      1. God’s will for our lives is plainly stated in 2 Peter 3:9. He is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repetance. Gods will for our lives is not some greatly profound thing that we could possibly never know in our lifetime(as most fundies make us beleive) According to them (Fundies)you could spend a life time searching and never find Gods will for you. Which leads to shame, guilt and not to mention, wastes a lot of time, oh and is disheartening.

        Gods will- All should come to repentance. 2 Pet3:9
        How can God use us to accomplish this task
        -Tell others…Matthew 28:19-20
        -Visit the orphans and widows…James 1:27

        I don’t know but in their infinate wisdom(Fundies) make this so hard to understand…but seems God plainly stated it to me (call me crazy I guess.) Remember, He is the Shepherd we are all just sheep. He would not have made His will that hard for us (sheep) to understand.

        1. Oh one more thing. I think Gods will is just what I stated above. I think if you are in Gods will, ie… telling others… helping others… then God could be inclined (although not required)to grant you the desires of your heart when you ask. ie sick family member…rebellious child problems or money for that amazing trip. We are His chidren. Being made in His image, as a parent, when my children do something I would like them to do I am inclined (although not required) to reward them. I take great pleasure in rewarding them, I have a sneaky suspsion God feels the same way about us. Psalms 20:4 and Psalms 37:4. God is awesome!!!

  9. I’m not really joking about this….What if… through getting tattoos -lots of them – I might have contracted Hepatitis or even HIV… What if this article was actually telling the truth….


    If I was a fundamentalist I guess I would have to accept that if I break God’s Law as a Christian I will be punished for it. It serves me right.

    1. We’ve all broken God’s law because he who has offended in one point is guilty of all. But Jesus paid the price! So glad! Now we live in freedom!

      I’m very prone to the “what-ifs”, but Paul reminds us to forget those things which are behind and press on for the glory of God. What we’ve done, we’ve done. If you were to someday get some horrible disease (God forbid), you don’t have to beat yourself up for choices you made in the past. God can use anyone – including a tattooed guy with HIV – to bring Him glory and to show His love.

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