Why do we insist on allowing guilt to run our lives? We all do it, we all fight it, and yet we all fall victim to the guilt trap. There is nothing that consumes someone’s life quicker than guilt. As humans, we are full of guilt and are taught to feel guilty at a very young age…And guilt is a weight that will crush and control you whether you “deserve” it or not. It is so painful. And why would we want to choose to live with such pain if we do not have to?
We use guilt to get our way, to make decisions, to coerce us into settling into social norms, to punish ourselves, and to assume we are experiencing some negative karma because of choices we make. We put so much effort into allowing guilt to be a piece of us because we feel like we owe it to others or a higher power to feel badly for every inch of our lives. We need to stop looking at situations with the attitude of, “what did I do wrong?”, “how can I fix this?”, or, “I feel so badly for causing this emotional reaction in someone else”…Where in that equation do we take into account our wants, needs, and feelings? We allow guilt to come first, and we ignore our feelings and our ultimate truth. Guilt causes us to hide or ignore pieces of ourselves that shouldn’t be suppressed.
How can we use guilt to our benefit, how can we remove guilt and instead use it to make the most of any situation? For example, whenever I make a decision that I know will affect others, I have to constantly remind myself that their reactions and emotions to my decisions are their reactions and emotions to own. I do not have control over nor am I responsible for how someone feels or reacts. Instead of thinking about what I did wrong or how to avoid hurting or shocking others, I instead think thoughts like, “what am I learning from this?”, “what are they learning from this?’, “this is their journey”, and, “why are they in a position to be learning from me?”…I give my guilt back to the universe or higher power to decide what its purpose is, and I truly believe that. I think about what guilt can do instead to help inspire or provide hope to me in ways I could not have dreamt of if I would have allowed myself to view it solely as something to feel guilty about. I take all the energy that I would have wasted on feeling guilty and instead use it to transform and create more possibilities for myself and those around me. Trust me when I say this is a work-in-progress, I have to work at this every day…I think I can speak on behalf of many of us in the helping profession when I say that we take on other people’s reactions and feelings as our own. We struggle to differentiate our wants and needs from others as we feel guilt for putting ourselves and our truth first. I struggle with this every single day.
Guilt keeps us paralyzed, keeps us in the boxes that society has put us in, and makes us second guess any amount of change that could be good for us. Guilt can either keep you from growing into your own, or it can lead you into making some pretty incredible changes in your life, and the choice is yours…How powerful is that? Guilt can simply be a reminder to just do better next time, and then we move on…Doesn’t that feel freeing? Quit trying to live to everyone else’s standards and expectations, because you will never meet them.
And ladies, we were born guilty. We are taught to feel guilt if we aren’t married with children by age 25 or don’t want children at all, we are taught to feel badly for being too assertive, to feel guilt for turning down the individual at the bar who bought us a drink and then felt entitled to take us home, or feel badly for “ruining” the offenders life who abused us and we pushed back against them. Guilt is something that has been engrained in females to feel in every aspect of their lives.…You do not owe anyone outside of yourself a damn thing. There, I said it!
It is important to note that guilt is a normal, natural emotional response. We have all gained insight and knowledge from feeling guilt. Guilt motivates us to be more responsible, to live in the discomfort of making mistakes, to apologize when necessary, and to make up for a wrongdoing. The problem is that many of us suffer from inappropriate amounts or excessive guilt. We use it too often. We even use it in how we parent/teach children…”it makes me so sad when you do not eat your peas”, thus making children feel badly on behalf of us when they do not do what we wish them to. Why do we do this? Why are we so set on having to motivate others by making them feel badly? This is not how we want to live our lives.
At the end of the day, how can we take the guilt and use it to our benefit? Aside from looking at guilt through this more positive perspective, how can we remove the guilt even further or let go once the problem resolves? I think it is so important to remember that we are all human, we all have moments of poor judgement and mess-ups. And if we didn’t, how boring or stagnant would life be? Mistakes are where we grow and learn what to not repeat again, how to regain ourselves, and how to do and be better. Ask yourself if the guilt you feel is appropriate and what its purpose is. How can you use it to your benefit?…We can also simply just accept the mistake, make the change, and move on. We do not need to punish ourselves. Recognize that you are not perfect, and that is okay.
Guilt: punishing yourself before God doesn’t~