I believe we all struggle with guilt. None of us want to. But getting over guilt is hard.
It is like baggage that is somehow attached to us. It is worse looking than these pictures. It is both ugly and full of sharp edges. It holds us back in life, makes us feel insecure about ourselves, and seemingly disqualifies us from other options.
We talk about physical clutter getting in the way of us really living, but mental clutter is much worse.
From what I can tell we suffer from guilt because of 1 of 2 things:
- Something we did that we shouldn’t have done.
- Something we didn’t do that we should have.
How do we start getting over guilt?
The first logical step to getting rid of guilt would be to ask if this ‘thing’ could be undone or done (as necessary). This isn’t often possible with the baggage we carry around, but for example, something that was taken without permission can be returned.
The second logical step, connected to the first is – Could this partially be fixed? Words can’t be taken back, but admitting we were in the wrong and asking forgiveness is something we can do. I think one of the suitcases of guilt is also called pride. To get rid of one you probably need to let go of the other.
Owning up to and paying for the mistake also fits into this. For example the person who hit my beautiful Prius earlier this week during the night and messed up the bumper should be feeling guilt. They could own up to the damage and do their part to fix it. (I don’t have much hope). Living a life from this time forward where we admit our mistakes right away will do wonders for getting rid of this baggage.
Maybe there isn’t the option for either of these steps with the guilt you are struggling with. Maybe the person is gone. Maybe the person is yourself.
If there is nothing more that can be done about the situation:
Remember that everyone makes mistakes
Focus on the potential of tomorrow instead of the failures of the past
If you need to this can be written down. When you find yourself feeling pulled down by the past sit down and write out your goals for the future. Your goals for who you will become. Your goals for what you can contribute to the world. A personal mission statement. The mind is powerful, but pen to paper has a way of changing the habits. Once you have a list on paper you can memorize it and go through it every time guilt comes into your mind. We can’t remove thoughts but we can replace them with something we want to focus on.
Realize that guilt is selfish
Guilt is very self-focused. Not only does it not help us but it doesn’t do anything to help others. It is a practice in self-focused thinking. A theme in intentional living, Christianity, and most other ideal living attitudes point to being others-focused. When we turn our thinking to others – what they need or how we can help – there is no room for our self-focused guilt.
(I realize this might be a bit harsh, but it is true :))
The idea for this post came from a reader. Guilt isn’t something I struggle with as much as some other forms of baggage. This is what I could come up with as I thought about it. Please, feel free to add in the comments. What can you add for people working on getting over guilt? (if you are reading RSS join us in the comments)
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