And did you know that in the Tibetan language there is no word for ‘guilty’. Apparently the closest translation is “intelligent regret that decides to do things differently”. Guilt has come up a lot with a client I am working with at the moment and so I wanted to share with you what I have learned and what I am teaching them.
What is guilt and where does it come from?
As I pondered this I came up with two different themes.
1. The guilt that someone directs at us
2. The guilt we direct at ourselves
The result of both is that we feel ‘bad’. We experience an emotion in our body that is not healthy and healing, but is unhealthy and stress inducing. It can be pretty disempowering and at its worst affects our health and fulfillment in life. It also impacts the minds capabilities in a negative way.
So guilt is generally a uncomfortable feeling that we ‘should’ or ‘should not’ have done, said or even thought a particular thing. It can be imposed by others or imposed by ourselves. The end result is is shuts us down, closes us off, and disconnects us from our greatness and self-worth.
So not where we want to spend a lot of time. Nano seconds are fine. Minutes, hours, days, weeks and months are not.
Having guilt thrown our way and how to dodge it
I said a lot of times others use ‘guilt’ to influence us. Marketers use it all the time to press our emotional buttons and cause us to buy their products. In the case of my client, their father used it a lot with them growing up, because he probably learned it from his parent/s and never learned a better way to influence, inspire and encourage others. He just didn’t know any better – so let’s forgive him before we move on.
Here is the thing I have learned about guilt: it goes hand in hand with responsibility.
When someone tries to make you feel guilty (so they can get what they want) the guilt becomes a burden when you accept it or take on responsibility for the other person. The thing that is common with both is they are both CHOICES. You CHOOSE to accept the guilt or you CHOOSE to be responsible for that other person.
So the antidote to guilt, in many instances, is to CHOOSE not to be responsible for the other person’s happiness, or fulfillment, or health, or success in life. You can care deeply for another person (and take care of them to the best of your abilities), but not take on their burdens or choices or even how they were born into this world. When someone becomes personally responsible, they cannot make another person feel guilty, because they know the ownership is theirs.
Guilt and personal mistakes (and personal responsibility) is another topic entirely and that is where we are going next.
Guilt and the mistakes we make
Have you ever made a mistake before? Me too. Bucket loads. Have I hurt people before (physically and emotionally)? Absolutely. Will I do it again? Most probably. Will I intentionally set out to do it? No, but it still might happen. Because me, like you, am only human. So let’s get that straight from the start. YOU AND I HAVE, AND WILL NOW AND IN THE FUTURE, MAKE MISTAKES. That’s the reality.
But do I feel GUILTY?
Rarely, if ever. And the next question I hope you are asking is ‘why’? Here is my list of reasons why I rarely, if ever, and not for very long, feel guilty:
- I FULLY accept my human imperfections.
- I take responsibility for my mistakes even when it is painful and embarrassing.
- I CHOOSE to make amends for my mistakes as best I can.
- I don’t feel responsible for other peoples health and happiness. Although I have dedicated my life to doing all I can to help people experience happiness, optimum health, fulfillment, etc. I know the results are ultimately theirs, based on their choices.
- If I start to feel guilty that I have not done enough, or shown up 100%, or been my best, I aim to do better. I take personal responsibility and do my best.
- I accept my existing limitations (though I am always working on taking them higher).
- I go out of my way to do good and be a good person.
- I know guilt does not serve me to become better or do better. So I CHOOSE not to take it on.
- I know I cannot change the past. I can only make better choices in this moment and the future.
- I ACCEPT myself. I LIKE myself (actually I love myself warts and all).
- I speak my TRUTH (as I know it and as I feel it).
- I FULLY accept my human imperfections. I just wanted to reiterate this point.
It is time for you
Are there some practices or distinctions listed above that you could introduce into your own life?
Are you taking on too much responsibility for others? Are you carrying a burden that is not yours to carry? Are you trying the play the role of God when something happens beyond your control? Are you hanging out in guilt, when you could be putting that energy into doing something right and good now with what is in front of you? Are you forgetting you are human and bound to make mistakes? Are you scared of the truth? Are you too embarrassed to take responsibility?
Step into courage and know you are worthy of love in this life, just for showing up. No one is perfect and nor will you be the first. Embrace your imperfections. Love yourself warts (or no warts) and all.
If you feel yourself experiencing this thing called guilt over the next 7 days; spend time understanding it. What are you telling yourself to make you feel this way? Are you telling yourself you ‘SHOULD’ or ‘SHOULD not’ have done something? Leave the shoulding behind. CHOOSE to do or not do. And know that every time you increase your knowledge, or learn new experiences, you are increasing your wisdom. And with increased wisdom you can make better choices. So that is my gift to you – KNOWLEDGE. Now it is up to you to use it.
Step into your greatness, today (and know I have your back).
You know where to find me if the guilt thing is weighing you down and you can’t figure out where the eject button (for the guilt) is. 😉