Guilt is a funny thing, we can feel guilt even when we are not to blame. At some point we make a decision to carry the blame perhaps because we are ill informed, confused or have a tendency to self-blame. This in itself can be dangerous because we run the risk of taking on the responsibility for circumstances that have no bearing on our actions. Whether a thing is true or not, once a person believes it, it becomes their truth. Their truth helps to shape the way in which they perceive themselves and others around them.
The definition of guilt as found in the Oxford Dictionary:
1. The fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime
2. A feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation
I have struggled with guilt at various stages of my life. In some cases I was to blame for my actions and in others I was not, however I chose to hold onto guilt which led to me feeling bad about myself as a person. Guilt can eat at you, little by little. It impacts on your self-esteem and self-worth. It often feels like a heavy burden hanging over your head – whichever way you move you cannot get rid of it. I liken it to those who suffer from depression when they speak of a dark cloud hanging over them following them wherever they go.
Guilt can hinder you from moving forward and enjoying your life as it is today. It can consume you and take away your joy. In worst cases a person can self-destruct when life is going well as deep down they believe they do not deserve to be happy.
How then can we begin to remove guilt from our lives?
1. Ask yourself why you are feeling guilty. Think about the part you played in the given situation. What exactly led to you taking on guilt?
2. Accept that you cannot change the past. It has gone and you have to find a way to move on. Take responsibility for the part you played- own it. Denial does not bring healing, only a false sense of security.
3. Learn to forgive yourself. You are not perfect, you will NEVER be perfect. We all act out, saying and doing the wrong things when our emotions get the better of us.
4. Do not be too hasty in over committing yourself.
5. Think about the expectations you place on yourself. Are they realistic? Are you constantly pressuring yourself?
6. Learn from your experience. Do not make the same mistake again. You are older and wiser, therefore better informed to make the right decisions.
7. Speak to someone whether a counsellor or a confidant. When we open up about sensitive issues in our lives, it brings an element of freedom and takes away shame.
To round up, feelings of guilt come to us all. We can decide to carry the guilt or allow it to move on. We are not always in control of the circumstances we find ourselves in, therefore it is wrong for us to hold up the banner of guilt.
How do you deal with guilt?
What do you think contributes to guilt?