Guilt: a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong; the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously; feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy; self-reproach (Miriam Webster Dictionary).
Guilt is a tricky emotion. It has a way of creeping up at the most inopportune time. We can sometimes feel guilty about things we shouldn't and then the guilt is projected onto us and we suffer disproportionally great anxiety. This then carries through to affect other emotions such as shame and cloud the situation at hand.
Guilt can also be a healthy emotion, in that its presence is more easily recognizable than some of the other negative emotions. When guilt is recognized, it can be a strong indicator that you are doing (or about to do) something that goes against your own moral or ethical code; your belief system.
If it's guilt from a past event, there is only one way to fix it- take responsibility for your actions. Sometimes when you have guilt from a past situation, it can eat away at you. It’s best to make amends as best you can and move on. The release from guilt will make you feel like a new person!
When we do this, we learn how to deal with ourselves and other people. If something makes us feel guilt, we start to avoid that activity. What have you done that makes you feel guilty? Maybe it's eating a co-worker's sandwich from the canteen fridge, maybe it's having sex with someone just to satisfy a sexual urge. Whatever the activity, guilt teaches us that it's something we should stop doing. Change the behavior and you will change your feelings.
Sometimes we feel guilt, but we make no amends. We think that this is our way of punishing ourselves for our actions. But if you choose to make amends, try to avoid rationalizing or justifying your behavior. If you start justifying, you definitely have not learned anything from the process. It's like a man apologizing to a woman for his bad behavior. But, the woman tells him that he's not sorry for what he did to upset her - he's just sorry he feels bad about it and he wants her to cheer up. In this situation, don't be hard on the guy - he does feel guilt, he just hasn't figured out why, just yet.
Another way we need to be mindful of guilt is when we feel disproportionate guilt. The type of guilt that just seems to have been blown out of all proportion to the crime. It's like a little child who is always saying they are sorry when they haven't done anything worthy of apology.
First, by whose standards are you judging yourself as guilty? Yours? Your parents? Your partners? Your church? If it's an external force that doesn't gel with how you see things, maybe you just need to see what perceptions and assumptions the others are bringing to the table. Why do they see this as something you should feel guilty about?
Whatever the outcome is, regarding where blame should lie, the important thing is to learn a lesson from your guilt so that you can adjust your behavior accordingly, make amends if you deem it necessary to, and then move forward. This decision is yours alone, between you and your God; no one elses.
So, next time you feel guilt for something, take some time to think about why and if you are assessing it correctly. If it’s justified, receive it and make amends as best you can. If it is disproportionate, then release it and move forward in freedom. Understanding guilt can be crucial to your living your highest life.
Blessings! Remember, I believe in you (and don’t feel guilty about that!)
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