Women: Guilty, Ashamed, and Inadequate?

Life events conspired this past weekend to land me at a large Christian women’s conference.

I’m not really one for big conferences, so this was not a venue I was all that comfortable with. It goes without saying, if you know me, that the loud, raucous music was not really my thing. But the speakers are where I really focused my attention. One thing I noticed, over and over, were the assertions that popped up:

  • Women feel guilty. We should stop feeling that.
  • Women feel so much shame, and we should stop that as well.
  • Women feel they are “not enough,” and this has to end.

I sat there, kind of befuddled. There were many women in the audience nodding and a few shouting out Amens.

And I wondered: do most women spend significant amounts of time feeling guilty, ashamed, and inadequate?

Maybe I’m the odd man (well, woman) out, because I don’t. But Facebook and Pinterest are rife with motivational sayings urging us that we are “enough” and that we should lose the guilt and shame.

I think of our ancestors on the prairie. Was Caroline Ingalls paralyzed with guilt as she canned green beans and spun wool? Did she experience inadequacy as she lay pinned beneath a log that had rolled on her ankle as she helped Charles build the family’s log cabin? Perhaps, but I’m guessing not. Is this excessive emoting over our perceived shame just a symptom of our “soft” society? I wonder.

Another theme was legalism in the church, and how bad this was. One speaker came right out and proclaimed: “Legalism is killing the church!”

This got a huge round of applause, but it kind of bothered me.

First, how is she defining legalism? These days, I’m assuming that a legalistic church would be defined as one where traditional hymns are sung, there’s a  cross in the sanctuary, and even perhaps a pastor who urges tithing or mentions sin.

I’m seeing mighty little legalism in the church today. In fact, church feels so loosey-goosey that I find it hard to believe that too many legalistic Christian churches even exist in the U.S.  (I know, I know: WESTBORO BAPTIST!!)

Maybe it’s just me. But it concerned me that we had all this angst stirred up over legalism, while abortion was never mentioned. Same-sex marriage was never brought up. I know, I know — silly me. We are just supposed to LOVE everybody, and not judge anyone. Because, because … um, that’s what Jesus would do … right?


What I do feel some guilt over is that we’re so busy making Jesus over in our own 2015 PC image, and not wanting to offend anyone with our legalistic Christianity, that we have stopped reading His word. We’re too busy, and it’s just too hard. Maybe we should start again. Maybe it would help us feel less shame, guilt and inadequacy. Sure, Jesus loves us. But that’s just one aspect of His character. It bothers me that we seem to be getting steamed over straw men when there are these big elephants in the room that we’re totally ignoring.

I hope all the women at Muslim conferences are being taught that they shouldn’t feel ashamed. I hope they’re learning about Allah being love, and that they should bake two wedding cakes for all the gay couples that come asking.

Here I am at this conferences, surrounded by women smiling happily at each other because apparently their neighbors’ struggles are just as awful as their own. In our city this week, dozens of babies have had their hearts stopped and limbs torn apart. But let’s not talk about that. Let’s just forget all the icky stuff until Sunday, when we can go to church (maybe wearing our Colts jersey and jeans ’cause heaven forbid we come across as legalistic) and giggle with our friends.

Maybe we do have reason to feel guilty.




7 thoughts on “Women: Guilty, Ashamed, and Inadequate?

  1. Well as someone outside trying to peek in the window at Women of Faith, I got a good glimpse.

  2. I have never been to one of those big women’s conferences – I don’t think I could take the music and atmosphere and ALL THOSE PEOPLE, introvert that I am. 🙂 But their agenda does seem awfully self-focused. “I don’t want to feel bad in any way or have people make me feel like I am not doing enough, so I am going to call them legalistic.” Christ is the answer for shame and guilt. We need to settle that in out hearts and then focus on Him and the needs of others.

  3. What a great commentary! I used to go to Day-Away events at Ft. Wayne Bible College when it still existed on Rudisill Street in Ft. Wayne, so I do understand about the big crowds, etc. Back then the music was OK because we mostly sang Gaither songs with Because He Lives being the favorite of that era. If it were up to me, I would have chosen a different theme and I would have talked about other women’s issues, especially abortion. As for me, I don’t feel guilty or ashamed of my accomplishments over a lifetime. Glad that you are a confident and very capable person yourself!

  4. Mom: you’re welcome. Barbara: yes, I think all the self-focus was the main thing that bothered me. It was like there was way too much emphasis on “women” to the detriment of “faith.” Leona: thanks. Some of the music was okay. Sandi Patty sang, and she was wonderful 🙂

  5. If we remember to center on God and not people’s interpretations and actions, we’re OK. Because of sin, the human condition has always involved guilt, shame, and inadequacy. If we acknowledge them and ask from help from our Savior, He makes it right. It’s a continual thing here on earth. There’s also a lot of joy around. I’m glad I can find it with friends like you!

  6. Another theme is being too stupid/weak/”loving” to say “no” to anything. Why is this hard?? Hand-wringing like that just annoys me and probably annoys there husbands and families, too! Also “Seasons of Life” as if we didn’t get enough of that from Mrs. Duggar!! I think guilt is just part of parenting today–you must give the kid a magical, every moment entertained and “enriched” and
    “experience–packed” childhood, while scrapbooking it all, photographing it according to Pinterest and, yes, homeschooling them while also working at home as a CPA for a Fortune 500 company! Hand-wringing like that just annoys me and probably annoys there husbands and families, too! Legalism I think generally is seen as: Women in skirts only, not eating this or that because its “Biblical,” MANDATORY tithing, head coverings, no women ever “teaching”–not even basic Church announcements.Women not serving in the sanctuary except in music. No youth group and no Sunday School just congregational in-depth Bible Study before the preaching. Hymns and KJV. No remarriage except for widowed folks. No drinking. No dancing. No cards or gambling. No man and woman alone together unless husband and wife. But most important: Church Discipline and public calling out on sins. That’s the biggie. Legalism is Bill Gothard and the home church movement.

  7. Preach it, Cousin!! I totally agree that we should feel guilty.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.