Life Lesson 7: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served

Yesterday: Choose Your Motivation Wisely
Today: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served.
Constantly feeling guilt and shame about the “bad” things you’ve done only insures that you’ll do them again.

Guilt usually holds its' roots in unfinished business. We most often feel worst about things we didn't handle well and now can't handle at all. True enough, no one has created a time machine outside of tv and movie land so we can't ever go back and undo or redo what we've messed up, but that's not the only way to handle things. Sometimes, a simple conversation seeking forgiveness will help assuage that.

But asking for and oftentimes giving forgiveness is very hard. So we sit around and we mope about over an issue that we can't change and don't want to handle. But if you don't take the time an do the work of getting over whatever it is that you're feeling guilty over, how do you learn from your mistakes? If you can't understand why you did something because you refuse to consider the choices that led to the mistake, how do you know you won't do it again?

I mentioned forgiveness earlier. I think it's something that is incredibly hard to do; in fact, right now I'm working on how to forgive for myself. Have you ever sat and really thought about what forgiveness looks like? How you know you've given it or received it? Right now I'm working from the basis that forgiveness is deciding to, despite what a person has done, treat them as if they haven't done that thing (while never forgetting that they did). Put another way: I'm trying to work on forgiving someone for misusing my friendship and for acting entitled to me and what I offer. I could treat her a certain way because of that -- I could deny her my friendship, I could significantly change the way I relate to her in this friendship -- but if I truly forgive her, I won't necessarily do those things out of spite or anger; I may only do them to keep myself safe, if I do them at all. I would stop harboring ill feelings toward her and stop looking for ways to make her pay, I would let bygones be bygones and, as safely as I can, treat her just as I had before I was wronged. I can do that and still not give her my friendship back or even my trust or time. There are plenty of people I am very kind to who are not my friends. Until I decided to define forgiveness in that way, I thought I had forgiven her (even though she never asked for it) but those angry feelings kept creeping up; I had to realize that perhaps I hadn't let go, perhaps I hadn't forgiven.

And larger, I felt some guilt about how everything had gone down. How I'd allowed her into my space and not taken better care to protect myself from the hurt. How, when I'd finally had enough, I still allowed her callousness to make me do and say things I never intended to. In turn, I allowed that guilt to influence me to let her back in my space even when everything about that decision felt wrong and bad. The guilt was the louder voice though -- I had to, I had messed up and this was the only way to make it right.

When guilt is the loudest voice in the room, you're guaranteed to make a mistake. You can't think or see the situation clearly as guilt acts like a fog. Forgive yourself for whatever you've done, and THEN make a decision. And if you're really doing the work of forgiving yourself, prepare for it to take awhile. Luckily for you, the only thing time will bring in such a situation is more information and more clarity.

Tomorrow: Turn jealousy into ambition


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