A most useless and nagging emotion. I struggle with guilt daily regarding all kinds of issues.
I feel so bad, I……………
“Yelled at my child.”
“Couldn’t commit to that project.”
“Missed my friend’s birthday.”
“Made an inappropriate joke at that party.”
“Didn’t visit my mom today.”
Thoughts that fill our heads and our days.
I have been actively working on meditating regularly and living my life in the present, and one thing I realized is that guilt is one thing that can derail that faster than anything. The guilt takes me into the past, causing me to relive an event from the past over and over, and raising my anxiety level as it happens. And this process doesn’t serve anybody; not me, and certainly no one close to me as I can’t exactly be present with my family when I am obsessing over something from the past.
SO I have been working on a repeatable system to quash the guilt before it gets out of control. Here are the 4 Steps I go through when the guilt creeps in:
1.TRUTHFULLY ASSESS THE SITUATION.
I often have to write this part down. It is so much easier to call BS about something in writing rather than on thoughts floating around in your head. And when I say TRUTHFULLY, I mean, don’t sugarcoat it, but more importantly, don’t exaggerate. Offending someone shouldn’t be looked at as if you killed someone-I know all you exaggerators get what I mean! Use facts, not feelings.
If possible and appropriate, say you’re sorry. Often after step one you may realize that you are being ridiculous and it stops there. Example: “I feel so guilty that I only bought my friend a card instead of a birthday gift.” Honestly, you have bigger fish to fry-if any adult human is mad at you about that, move on! However, if you can make it right, DO! Apologies are always appreciated; as long as they come from an honest place. Let me repeat-AS LONG AS THEY COME FROM AN HONEST PLACE.
Once you have assessed the situation and if necessary, apologized, FORGIVE YOURSELF. If you have to, look at the situation as if your best friend did whatever you feel guilty about. Isn’t it simpler to forgive her/him? Then give yourself the same gift!
Also say out loud “I am not my actions”. We all screw up. Do bad things. But screw ups don’t make us a “SCREW UP”. Making bad choices doesn’t make us “BAD PEOPLE”.
4. MOVE FORWARD.
I can’t honestly say that I’ve never made the same mistake twice. I’m not perfect. But I DO try to learn from my mistakes so that I don’t repeat them over and over. Some lessons take longer than others! We are all works in progress. And yes, we screw up. But to me, as long as we are moving forward, learning, and trying to grow as human beings, that is what is most important.
Guilt can be a useful tool to help us to learn how to grow in our relationships. But letting it fester can be really destructive. It keeps us in a negative place, and causes us to get stuck in the past. As long as we keep replaying the past over and over, we can’t live in the present. And that’s where the good stuff happens! You don’t wanna miss the good stuff, do ya? Didn’t think so :).