After many guilt trips over the years, one intense year of feeling bad about my choices, I have pretty good reasons to go into this year with a focus on forgiveness of myself, others and releasing feelings of guilt that I’ve been caught up in. For this post I share the beliefs around guilt, my experiences and a practice I’ve used, well we all can use to release guilt.
There are levels to guilt…
People have a hard time accepting that others don’t share their same experience and because of this we try to suggest that a person’s experience of guilt is less legitimate than our own. Guilt is guilt, just by trying to suggest someone should feel less guilty because circumstances aren’t the same is a guilt trip in itself and doesn’t help to release it. Regardless of who you are, we feel the same emotions but experience it’s severity differently so none of us could truly understand the depth of another person’s pain or guilt. I remember working at a school where they handed out tickets to the upcoming christmas concert and the grade 8 students didn’t bother to ask until the last day when all the tickets were gone. Their teacher decided to copy the tickets for them so they could go which wasn’t proper protocol but he did it anyway. The rest of the staff were upset and advised me to tell the parents and kids that they couldn’t use photocopied tickets to get in so they would not be able to sit with their parents. Teachers believed the students finessed their teacher into the photocopying and I caught myself in the process of accusing one of the students of lying about the way he got the ticket. Till this day I feel bad about being another person in power to accuse a black child of being in the wrong without any real wrongdoing. It still hurts me to know I was going to take the stance of the oppressor. I just forgave myself for that, going forward knowing I will listen to myself before others, to many they would say this experience was not that serious. However the denial of guilt is just as bad as feeling guilt and that’s because when you ignore what is felt or dissuade someone from feeling guilty, you minimize the reality of what they’re feeling and actually take them out of a space to question where its coming from so they can release and grow from it. There is no competition so lets avoid comparing the level of guilt we experience.
If it’s your family, then it’s okay…
We don’t enable positive outcomes through guilt. We’ve already tried that and look where society has found itself. We discuss respect as something that should be given and received by everyone but for some reason when it comes to family all of a sudden this doesn’t apply. The same goes with guilt, its okay to make family members feel guilty when they decide to follow their heart because it’s family and the bible did say honour thy mother and father. But where is the honour if the ones who lead you, take you down a road that is not suitable to you? Guilt is not something to be instilled in others as a means to deter or control behaviour, the longer result of guilt is a never ending cycle of feeling unworthy, unloved and unacceptable. By the time these feelings really start to settle in, most of us are well into our teens facing anxiety or depression for reasons deep rooted in childhood trauma and extensive guilt trips. My mom and I don’t have the best relationship because for many years I looked at my mom’s pain and saw how it destroyed her and her relationships. Her marriage, her relationship with my siblings and then her relationship with me. I realized I could not be the one to save her although I tried many times and eventually I just continued to feel guilty for not being there and trying to escape. One day while driving home from the airport, I got a strong feeling that now is the time to tell her why and how I feel without holding back – all the other times I tried resulted in arguments. I chose to tell my mom the unfortunate reality that I cannot be around her for my sanity and of course she was not happy. I wasn’t expecting anything from her, I just knew it was important for me to tell her the honest reason why I was not around. Interestingly after this conversation I felt at peace, I still cry because I wish she would take the time to make a choice to choose herself and not feel guilty but that’s unfortunately a journey she seems unwilling to take. The bottom line is that parents, siblings, aunts, uncles even friends are not exempt from the list of people who shouldn’t make you feel guilty, no one is. Feel good with ending relationships or moving away from situations that do not bring you peace and let no one guilt you into believing that their needs come before your own. Love doesn’t use guilt to ensure it’s survival.
It’s selfish to choose yourself…
Its wise to choose yourself because then you have a complete space to work from when helping others. We all know you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. Even when your highest calling is to serve people, you still have to take the time to breath life back into you. Society expects that we must take a “motherly” stance and focus our efforts on maintaining the home or the greater good without recognizing the need for balancing this out with self love. I’ve witnessed so many of my friends and I’ve even said it “I feel bad not going to such and such’s event but I really want to take time to rest.’ We’ve gotten to the place where our focus is on pleasing others to the point where we feel bad for making ourselves an obligation. My best example was when I worked for the school board, I remember being so judgemental of people who took time off until I had to. It was only then that I realized how important it was to give yourself a break to rest. I felt bad being off from work because I knew there were things that needed to be done and certain programs would not run without me being there. Come to think of it, this reflects a bigger issue in society where knowledge is so segregated that we don’t know how to come together when a member of the team has to step away. Regardless, we’ll always have work to do, and work will get done, be okay with time off because nurturing yourself is part of our purpose, working yourself to death is not.
There are ways to release the feeling of guilt once we acknowledge it and that’s an important step to being guiltless in 2018 and the years after. We all have the right to be just who we are, live our lives in anyway we imagine and making a choice to release guilt is making a choice to accept ourselves and the decisions we’ve made. We may ask for forgiveness from others but we’re not begging for it. Culturally there is a norm that of always asking others to forgive us, but the important step missing is the step where we forgive ourselves. As promised here is a three step practice to forgive and release guilt!
Release in 1, 2, 3
- Either write down or ask yourself what is making you feel guilty, what feelings confirm it and where the guilt is sitting in your body.
- In front of a mirror, look into your own eyes, put your hand where you feel the guilt sits and and look into your eyes and say I forgive myself for accepting the will of other’s instead of my own, I forgive myself for ________ (what made you feel guilty).
- Repeat this a few times in the day or once daily for as long as you need until you feel peace restored in your heart and in the area where guilt was sitting.
Forgive yourself for accepting the will of others instead of your own. Forgive yourself for being forced to do things you would never do, forgive yourself for wanting the best for yourself and receiving it. Forgive and release it to Mother Earth or to God, whatever you believe.
This practice is just one thing that can support you but there are many, find what works for you and release, I hope you may continue to have a guiltless 2018 and find power in forgiveness because it is what we all deserve.
FYI: I chose the main pic at the top because I find it so crazy how the person cleaning the rink gets slack for doing his job, and everyday people get slack for being themselves.