Just look at the word above and see what it elicits from within you.
It’s more than a word…..it is a whole ecosystem that is vast in scope and persistent in the human experience.
If we let go of discussing the many religious affinities…… we still have so much left to reflect upon (even if it is perhaps fueled by religious lineage).
Let’s make a short list of some potential guilt triggers:
-Eating (or not eating) certain things
-A choice made during a major life event
-An action taken that affected someone else adversely
-Simply feeling happy
-‘Awkward’ social interactions
-Forgetting to send that birthday card
Guilt is also something we find utilized as a technique for influencing the behavior of others:
-A parent with a child
-A partner with their intimate
-An organization with its members
-Advertisers toward consumers
……and I am sure you could add even more to these lists. Guilt is also powerful at its most subtle and I think this contributes to its continued life span and affect.
I personally feel ‘guilt’ has no real value (which I can imagine stirs any number of responses) and is a non-growthful mechanism.
I have had some argue that guilt is what helps guide your behavior in a society. But for me that is the role or job of the ‘conscience’.
The definition of conscience is:
an aptitude, faculty, intuition, or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong. Moral evaluations of this type may reference values or norms (principles and rules)
So, if we have conscience to do the work of assessing our choices….what is the role of guilt?
(And to clarify….I feel guilt is different from the natural and balanced process of remorse that we sometimes experience and transform throughout our life. I think remorse left to fester can become the weight of guilt and no longer a process but a location.)
Guilt feels like it keeps us dwelling in the past as opposed to living in the now or the possibility of future.
Our conscience is what helps us reflect on our choices/behaviors and decide if might have ‘fallen short’, need to make amends or grow in a certain aspect of ourselves. But guilt on the other hand seems to tether us and limit us. It can become a resident presence within us.
Here is the thing about the past……we have the ability to choose how we perceive it and feel about it. We get to choose how we tell the story. This is not saying you can change the things that have happened in the past nor is this saying you should be ‘dishonest’. I am simply saying you can change how you feel about the events of the past because they don’t exist except as a memory or as a perception we tell ourselves and others. You can decide how you would like to tell the story of your past in which it is more supportive for your growth in the now and energy you take into your future. Not always a simple unwinding….. but with practice this becomes an amazing tool for personal growth.
Perhaps ask yourself where guilt has become habitual? Think about any or all the moments in the course of a day or week where you feel guilty or ‘bad’ about something (no matter how small….because they accumulate).
Is it possible that guilt has become a method for avoiding growth or change? How does guilt give you permission to simply remain in the perception of inadequacy or sense of misery? What else might you notice?
Remorse, sadness or grieving is a natural response and human process we all go through. It is an opportunity to feel and move through the waves of emotions and emerge into a place where the weight of these emotions are not limiting you. In contrast, guilt, rarely seems to be helping you move into new territory or growth.
Throughout our lives we all make ‘poor’ choices, cause hurt or behave in ways that we struggle with deeply…..
I don’t think there is a way to avoid this. But the potency of these events is truly in how we perceive these moments, tell the story and let them evolve as we move forward with new insight.
How does guilt support your growth and continued brilliance?
(And when we make poor choices, for which we might have guilt, are those choices not often caused by our not feeling brilliant but small? And wouldn’t dwelling in guilt create a perpetual cycle for more poor choices…… and more guilt?)
The only things I can imagine that have any authentic value are the ones that lift us up. The things that allow each of us to rise to our brilliance and meet it fully. Anything that keeps you ‘small’, less than or feeling lacking doesn’t serve you or the world.
Ultimately, each of us needs to look at what lies underneath the guilt and find the emotions, stories and energies that are keeping the guilt stuck within us. Guilt is less about the event itself and more about how we perceive and feel about it. This is where your tools of unconditioned love and curiosity can come in……..
Let the feeling or story of guilt become the guide towards Love. I have found, in my life, that Love is truly greater than fear (or anything else). That things like fear, anger and guilt typically exist from a lack of loving within myself. Nobody could teach me the details of this……I had to discover its essence on my own.
I had to be curious enough to love myself…….
…… to let go of feeling attached to ideas and move towards what brought me closer to my brilliance.
Thanks for reading and sharing.