First off, guilt can be a good thing. It helps to direct us to where we might not have treated someone very good in hopes to make amends, or to learn from the experience and grow if we are no longer able to make up for how we treated the person in the first place.
Guilt can also “tug” at us when we need to do something different, such as leave a job, a relationship or start fresh in another area for the sake of all involved. Sometimes, making those decisions are the toughest (and most crucial) things we can do. They also have the power to literally change our lives for the better, to help us change our destiny, frankly.
Guilt Can Harm Or Help
On the flip-side, “punitive” guilt can absolutely destroy our lives in a number of ways. Our repetitive thought and behavior patterns can produce self-sabotage and a “self-fulfilling prophecy” of failure, shame, poor decision-making skills, more resulting failure which results in more shame, guilt, anxiety and depression, and so on and so on. See my point?
I’m not a trained therapist, but I know that types of abuse we experience in childhood or later on can really do a number here, since we might not even be consciously aware of why we’re feeling guilty. If you feel like guilt is hurting you on a regular basis, check it out – if it’s at work, don’t be afraid to have a chat with your supervisor and investigate things a bit further. If it’s in your relationship, definitely take some time to think about how you’re going to address the way you feel with your partner or whoever it is.
Dealing with guilt is key.
Things left unchecked often fester and grow into much bigger problems yet to come if we don’t have the courage to stand up and address what we’re feeling. Wow, do I know that part from personal experience.
Remember That You’re Human!
Feeling guilty doesn’t mean you’re a “bad person.” That’s what you’ve got to remember. Sure, I hurt people in different ways growing up, I said some really horrible things back in the day, but I forgave myself and did my best to make amends when it was possible to do so (without harassing the person if they no longer wanted to talk to me). Sometimes you and I just can’t get the closure we seek from the person, so we’ve got to find it within ourselves as best we can.
Note: This is a journey, and you’ll never feel “perfect” about it – the entire key to this stuff is to keep learning, keep being brave in knowing you are a good human being, that you want to do better in life, to keep progressing! That has to be enough for any of us. Beating ourselves up does NO ONE any good, remember.
Dealing with Guilt: Forgiveness (of Self) Is Life-Changing
I have guilt from my past – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. However, I’ve worked hard to accept what I did, to learn from it and to not repeat the same behaviors in the future. Not a single human being who lives into adulthood can say that they don’t have regrets of some sort – not unless they’re a sociopath or in total denial. Regrets are part of being human. Allowing those regrets to haunt us, take a hold of us and prevent us from future joy and happiness shouldn’t be.
Again – that helps no one!
Take your guilt and make something good of it. Turn it around. It takes courage and it changes your perspective when you give it a shot. Forgive yourself. Compassion-Focused Therapy can do wonders, I’ve found.
We’re all dealing with guilt at some point in our lives. My heart goes out to you in your journey. You’re human, just like me. I welcome any thoughts you may have in the comments section below.