Trip Advisor on the Guilt Trip: Terrorism

Terrorism. defines it as “systematic use of intimidation to achieve some goal.”

I never thought of using it to describe my child’s methods, but Chris was using the word correctly (of course!) when he referred to our 17-month-old.

The word could well describe the methods of many mothers, husbands, wives, friends, bosses, children, and …of course foreign radical religious leaders.

The term was first coined in our home when our 4th child would not stop crying. I have never felt so on the edge of sanity as I did when I was homeschooling an eight-year-old, had a strong willed 5-yr-old, a 20-month old and a newborn who would not stop crying.

“Waaaaaah waaaah.” He would wake in the morning, and the whining/crying noise would begin. (I suppose it wasn’t colic, since he actually did sleep.)  The cacophony continued all day, every day, until he was 17-months-old.  Even while eating, he would usually moan as if his vocal cords didn’t know how to silence.

The noise was so a part of my life that when he was out of earshot, I would still hear the noise in my head. “Wah wah.” I couldn’t tell existent from imaginary.  If I slept, the incessant moaning was incorporated in my dreams. There was a constant state of unrest about me.

When I held him, he would cry; so I figured, “Hey, if you are going to cry in my arms, you can cry over there.”  I would then set him in a play seat or on a blanket. He would cry louder and harder. And so would I.

Chris and I tried to make a joke out of it.

“Do you hear anything?” He would ask.

“Nope, it’s just the beautiful Christmas music.” I would yell over the din with a smile, the  insane kind of smile.

Then it happened. I did something that catered to the baby, and Chris said, “I can’t believe you’re doing that.”

“Well, if I don’t he will just cry,” I justified.

“He’s terrorizing you!”

Wow! “Terrorize?!” strong word!

How many people have I allowed to “terrorize” me? I have

  • Appeased by attending something for fear of what would happen if I didn’t. (not because there was joy in my heart about going)
  • Given someone undeserved middle ground, sacrificing my family or me to avoid the conflict elsewhere.
  • Been silent in the face of evil – for fear of ramifications (terrorizing!)

Familial terrorists are great at guilt-transmutation. I feel bad if I say something that is in disagreement, but I feel equally guilty if I don’t say anything.  “Silence in the face of evil is evil itself,” according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

So it comes down to guilt -classification:

  • Is the guilt because I feel like I have sinned against God? –correct guilt, needing to be addressed.
  • Is the guilt because a human has “made me” feel bad and tried (or succeeded in the case of my crying child) to change my course of action? –incorrect guilt, needing to be dismissed.

Too many times, I have been the one allowing others to “achieve their goal through systematic intimidation of …me.”

Sticking to principles is the only way to break the power of the terrorist.  Improper behavior of others doesn’t change what’s RIGHT. Familial and other terrorists exist for as long as we allow them. They have as much power as we give them.

As in one of my favorite books, Instrument in the Redeemer’s Hands (Tripp):  Aggressively LOVE (even when they are “wah wah-ing”) and humbly stick to Truth.

Girlfriend, let your Light so shine and protect its color to be true!


Matt 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

8 thoughts on “Trip Advisor on the Guilt Trip: Terrorism

  1. I would not have thought to use the term “terrorism” in that sense either, but it is very applicable. It makes me think through times I have done that to others and rationalized it as something else. Thanks for the reminder Terri. Have a great week.

    • Yeah! You are right! He IS a delightful child! He’s 6 now and laughs with us when we talk about his babyhood. He’s the one who said yesterday when ESPN was playing in the background at a restaurant, “Mom, you know what I don’t like about TV? They talk bad about Tim Tebow behind his back.” and last week, “Mom, my heart just hurts until I say sorry when I feel bad about something.” Wise kid! I guess it was good that Chris taught me how to stay my ground and not let him terrorize me! Otherwise, who knows if I would have been able to even take him to a restaurant without causing a scene! 🙂

  2. Wow Terri. Terrorist? Who would have “thunk it”? Yet, I know I have been a terrorist and allowed others to terrorize me into guilt, horrible actions etc. This article is great perspective and since it uses such a strong word that invokes certain images, it will stick with me. Thank you for your timeless pearls of wisdom.

  3. Thank you Terri for this post. I particularly like the guilt classification: that which needs to be addressed and that which needs to be dismissed. This underlines the importance of being rooted in God’s truth to help us live in love, develop character and integrity and not compromise our values and beliefs when they are confronted. Have a great weekend!

  4. Thank you for your post, Terri. It caused me to reflect back on my life and recollect times where I was “terrorized” by others or unfortunately, when I may have been on the other end. Praise God for grace and the LIFE learning materials!

  5. “Systematic use of intimidation to achieve some goal.” Wow. perfectly describes a relative I have. Perhaps I won’t give in as frequently (an thus enable her) if I remember this post!

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