“My bad,” the thirty-something father/coach/pitcher apologized to the t-ball hitter each time he threw a pitch that the child didn’t hit. The boys and girls were hitting wildly at anything, mostly too late. And I was thinking that little of it was the pitcher’s fault. In T-ball the hitters get to hit from the T if they don’t hit the three pitched balls. I think the father was trying to make them feel better by assuming too much responsibility. “My bad” is such a curious expression to me; I guess I’m too old for such an ungrammatical “mea culpa” to mean anything to me. My mistake, my bad, mea culpa, and I’m sorry all speak to a feeling of having done something wrong, probably coming from a feeling of guilt, but “my bad” communicates, more than the other apologies, a deep wrongness within oneself and a complete culpability for even existing. “My bad” goes against all that Jesus teaches about the love of God and how we are forgiven by God.
That feeling of unworthiness probably rings true for most of us who have been unable to feel the love of God that embraces us even in our brokenness. It may be the last thing to surrender as we give ourselves over to the ministrations and transformation of the Lord. It may reside in our deepest memories and feelings about ourselves, the last to go because we hold onto the “my bad” long after God has tried to shower us with love. Is it the original wound that comes with our birth into this world? Perhaps, the perfection of God makes us even more conscious of our own unworthiness by contrast.
There must be shame attached to it to, or it would be easier to let go of it. Shame lies at a deeper level of ourselves than plain old guilt and is more of a core feeling than guilt. Guilt is more about what we have done or failed to do. Shame shines a dark light on ourselves that reveals our deepest selves in a shattering way. So we try to protect that deep wound by never revealing it. I suspect that it’s unnatural for us to feel shame, that it is something we are taught by whoever abuses us—we are taught by the perpetrator who is forever protected by our feeling of shame to keep the secret. As children we just don’t understand that revealing the deed of the perpetrator would free us from the shame he/she so desperately wants to burden us with. That we bear the shame for his or her actions is the lie the perpetrator tells us and thereby wounds us with.
It was never our shame, but how were we as children to know that? God is the only one who can heal wounds like these, maybe all wounds. We can try to think our way out of them, we can try to cry our way out of them, but in reality only God can make this pain go away. We are forgiven, we are loved, we are cared for and held. All we need to do is to turn to him and give up these burdens to his loving care. That is the way to freedom and to feel love for ourselves.