Do you ever feel guilty for things you only guess and assume are an error?
- I mean, have you ever said something and later thought it was stupid and you should have said something different?
- Has your child ever had a playground accident at school and you beat yourself up because you are not a stay-at-home, home-school mom so that this wouldn’t have happened?
- Do you ever feel guilt because you feel insecure about an action that you have taken—even when no one else has commented on it?
- Do you feel guilt over things you have no control over but are inconvenient to other people?
- Do you ever feel guilty because you can’t make or keep someone else happy?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has a few definitions of guilt. Today I want to speak in regard to this one:” feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.”
I find it amazing that Webster’s definition uses the word “imagined” offenses.
We can beat ourselves up for hours/days over something we perceive we did wrong even if no one has said we did anything at all. We suffer inside. It creates turmoil and depression. We lose the ability to connect to others because we are caught up in the guilt situation. We are afraid of what others think and how that will affect us.
No matter where we grew up, there were social rules we were raised with. Some were spoken to us. Some were unstated, but we learned them from watching others around us. These became our “shoulds” in life. Some people harden their hearts against these should(s) and just live anyway they want. Other people have softer consciences and take it to heart when they break a “should” or a “should not”— even if they don’t agree with this “rule” of society.
Guilt is appropriate if we actually do something wrong such as steal from the office or drive drunk, or yelling at a loved one. But what about taking time out for yourself even though you have 4 kids and a spouse that want your attention every moment you are not at work? What about when your child wants money for something specific, but your budget is not big enough to afford it right now?
The lower someone’s self-esteem the more perfectionistic their ideals for themselves are. They believe they should not be making mistakes, or blunders. They believe that they should be able to keep others happy, that it is their responsibility. This is unrealistic. But sometimes we grow up in families that make us feel guilty for just being ourselves. We feel we never get it right. And there are plenty of adults that bully their friends and partners into feeling false guilt (just so the offending party can feel momentarily better than someone else).
So what can we do with our guilt?
Step 1) recognize if it is rational or imagined.
Did we do something that we actually made an error of judgement on? Or are we just afraid we did? Are we taking other people’s wants and desires too personally as if we are the only ones on earth that can help?
If it is a real error-
- accept responsibility and ownership of the error.
- Ask for forgiveness
- Set things straight
- Try not to repeat it again
- If you cannot fix the error or the situation- share your regret and your feelings with the other person.
If it is imagined
- Quit with the guilt!
You might never know if your words were taken as insensitive. Also, you are not the only person in the world that can help others. Other people have their own internal issues that effect their moods and attitudes. And after all we are not responsible for how others choose to feel. (there are a few exceptions)
Step 2) Allow for forgiveness
Once you have set things straight and apologized (only when real errors were done) …Once you have or have not received the other person’s forgiveness… it is time to forgive yourself.
- If someone forgives you- MOVE ON! Your guilt at that point is not helping you and, in most cases, ongoing guilt doesn’t prevent someone from repeating the same mistake. Accept that the other person has released you from the event.
- If you do not need forgiveness because truly nothing bad was done, or if the other person had not forgiven you—it is still time to move on. But how?
Self- forgiveness -admit
A) you are not ever going to be perfect
B) you are going to make errors because we all do
C) you are never going to make/keep others happy—its not your responsibility anyway.
If you have done your part to make things right then acknowledge that, be satisfied with that, and again try not to repeat it.
If you are a believer– confession, repentance, grace, forgiveness = record wiped clean. Get to it!
So there are 3 types of forgiveness to diminish guilt.
- Forgiveness from others when we truly have caused the harm or made an error.
- Self-forgiveness when we acted on a way we wish we hadn’t and also when we have done all we can to make it right.
- Forgiveness from our higher power– to clear the record, to gain strength to not repeat our error, to know that though we messed up we are still truly loved. We are in the process of growing Holy and we will make mistakes along the way. This was foreseen. That is why there is a merciful pan in place so we can start again.
Are you still walking in guilt? Run it through this process and set yourself free!
Until Next Time~