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Those Chains


Today let's talk about GUILT!  You know, that feeling of being responsible for an offense or something that went wrong.  Guilt serves a useful purpose when it reminds us not to do something that we know is wrong; it can serve as a powerful deterrent. I do not want to drink and drive and get into an accident where someone gets badly hurt or killed - I could not live with the guilt.  I could not physically abuse or neglect another person - I could not live with the guilt.  I do not steal from my employer or cheat on my spouse - I do not want to live with the guilt. 

Guilt is a byproduct of conscience... it helps us make wise decisions in determining right from wrong.  It is said that the measure of man's true character is what he would do if he wasn't found out.  But sometimes living with the knowledge of our guilt can be far worse than being found out.  Guilt can sentence us to a lifetime of sadness and shame.

I've discovered that often people who are very judgemental about life (take me for example, though I like to tell myself I'm not) also tend to be very hard on themselves, actually judging themselves far more harshly than they judge others.  We tend to take the messages we receive as children about our goodness and worth - or the lack of it, and let them grow in our heads until they overtake reason.  There are those people who believe that everything that happens in their lives is someone else's fault, they never assume personal responsibility; and then the are those of us that take on responsibility for the world... everything that happens is our fault, we are always to blame.  Guilt and the accompanying feelings of worthlessness are a heavy burden to carry thru life, it can prevent us from the lives of purpose and joy that God intended us to have.

I also think there is a BIG difference in feeling guilty for things done consciously with the intent to hurt or hinder someone else, and things done that hurt others unintentionally. Sometimes our best efforts fall short or we fail to see the long-range effect of our actions until it is too late to undo them.  We've all said things in anger that we wish we never would have said at all.  We've all lashed out a people we love because we were hurting.  We've all neglected to take the time to listen or help someone out who really needed a bit of our caring.  We aren't perfect, we are work in progress. It is right to feel remorse over such things.  It is not ok to be still beating ourselves up over it ten and twenty years later!

We need to take a hard look, as adults, at the feelings of guilt we carry and the blame we ascribe to ourselves.  Many times situations have been partially, if not totally beyond our control.  Often, given a particular situation, we handled it the very best we could, with the knowledge and life skills we had at that time.  That doesn't mean we never did anything poorly, or wrong.  I'm sure I could come up with a list of a hundred or more things I wish I would have done or handled differently in my life.  I don't believe I always did everything right as a child, or as parent, or as a spouse.  I don't do everything right now either, though I can honestly say I try.

There comes a time when we need to let go of the past, to stop being chained to who we WERE, so we can shine in the light of who we ARE!  It can be hard to forgive those who hurt us, it often seems even harder to forgive ourselves, but we must.  As we've talked about before, forgiveness doesn't mean you are saying that everything was fine and ok, it means you aren't going to hold on the the emotions tied to it and let them cripple you any longer.  When you forgive yourself for your perceived shortcomings, you are releasing yourself not from responsibility, but from the burden of guilt.  It is IN THE PAST, lay it down and leave it there.  Say I'm sorry to anyone you are able to reach out to, apology is healthy for the heart and soul.  If you can't reach them, apologize in your heart.  Write it down on paper, and while you're writing... write yourself an apology letter too... for being so hard on yourself, and for never loving and valuing yourself enough! 

No, I didn't do a great job being the kind of person I like to be yesterday. I admit that. I apologized to a couple people today for my surely attitude.  I apologized to myself for letting meget backed into a corner instead of addressing the issues at hand.  I thought about it, and I feel better prepared to handle today.  We fall down, we pick ourselves up and we start again.  Break the chains that bind you to the past, stop adding to that long list of personal failures... burn the list!  New day, new doorway - I'm stepping thru and not looking back, why don't you join me?

21 comments:

  1. why mercy is God's greatest attribute.

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    1. Very true, Annmarie,in the end nothing lasts except the grace of God, and it is enough.

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  2. I think this might be right up my alley of why I often feel depressed! I feel better just from reading this post. Thank you!

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    1. I agree Dan, I've done a lot of that in life too, beating myself up for mistakes of the past. It's easy to not like ourselves very much and to feel like failures, especially if we receive those kinds of messages from others too. We have to forgive and love ourselves first, and then move on to being the kind of people we really want to be, baby steps get us there! I can see the good, caring heart you have, and I know you will find your way.

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  3. Amen. Guilt is a terrible burden and often self imposed, based upon other's incriminations. Then there are those without conscience...but that is another post, isn't it?
    Thank you for not only getting it, but getting it right...at least from where I can see.

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    1. It's the way it looks from my corner too, Annie. I don't pretend to know what is right and true for everyone, but I do know that heavy burdens of guilt can weigh us down and prevent us from truly living, there comes a time to lay it down and move on - and also to acknowledge that some of it was never ours to carry in the first place! Ahh yes, those without conscience, and there are tnose, another post indeed! :-)

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    1. Actually Monkey, this post wasn't really triggered by anything specific happening, it's in keeping with my "Lighten your Load" post and the theme of setting ourselves free from whatever weighs us down, also of the need to address our mistakes and issues immediately instead of letting them become another piece of baggage in our lives.

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  5. Guilt is a tough one but you sure did address some really great points AGAIN :))

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    1. Thanks Janice! Yes, guilt is tough, hard to carry, and sometimes even harder to free ourselves from. Forgiveness and mercy exist for a reason, to free ourselves from all that inhibits our ability to grow and live in light. Why continue to harbor self-hate for something that occured 20 years ago? It's over and done and long gone. Make ammends when appropriate, forgive yourself, and move on! There will always be new mistakes to feel bad about, no need to save up old ones! ;-)

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  6. Let's see...how should I phrase this so it makes sense....

    I'm sorry I always allowed others to make me feel guilty for things THEY did.

    I'm sorry I was always quick to accept responsibility for things beyond my control.

    I'm sorry I wasn't then, the person I am now.

    yep

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    1. YES, Lotta Joy... you've got it... exactly!! :-) And the truth is you couldn't be the person then that you are now because you had to learn all that the hard way, just as I did! But hey, at 70 we are going to be awesome old ladies, look out world!

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  7. We are all human and have a bit of guilt in some way, whether big or small. We are all judgemental, no matter how much we try not to be, deep inside it is still there, in the subconscious. But, we all make efforts to better ourselves by our deeds and kinder words. It is an ongoing job to better ourselves so we can make a better world.

    Great post.

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    1. Amen to everything you just said Jill, and at least we all SHOULD make effort to better ourselves, I'm not sure I think that always holds true though. There are a few lost souls who seem to have no heart or conscience left at all. Yet as long as they still breathe, there is still hope they will figure it out!

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  8. Aw, gee, after reading Monkey's comment, I'm kinda bummed. I thought you wrote this after reading my post on shame he he he =PPP

    You have a great point about feeling more guilt carrying something around versus setting it free. That held true for Devin. (I know Monkey agrees with this). Once he unburdened himself from his guilty past, a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders and he was able to begin healing and working on himself. That allowed me to begin working on myself too - hence the shame post...

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    1. Just coming from there, Elsie, this well could have been written in response to your awesome post, and more would have been added to it, if I had! The reality is that I had read part of your post early at work the morning after your wrote it, intending to come back and finish/comment when I had more time. Just today I had the chance to go back and catch up on everyone's older posts, and when I got to yours it took my breath away. Again, you write my story as well as your own, and you speak for both of us when it comes to living without shame. That was then, it is not who we are now! I do think it is imperative we let go of guilt before we can begin to heal from things done and things done to us. Guilt serves the purpose of telling us when we have strayed away from what we believe, but then it is time to act on that awareness, not carry it as a martyr's cross forever. We've come such a long, long way!

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    2. Very good point, Josie. When guilt or shame begin to play at the edges of our mind, we know that something is "off" - as they say down south "it ain't right" and it's time to tune into what's going on around us and pay attention. Take the blinders off and find our core values (if we've lost them, like I had) and buck up!!!

      Yep, we've come a long way, baby!

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  9. Oh yeah. You are preaching to the converted here, Josie. I like to beat myelf up and feel all guilty about stuff - it's one of my favourite past times. But it serves no purpose, stops us from moving forward. I really need to work on the amount of guilty feelings I pile on myself....

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    1. I'm working on it too, Selma. Guilt has it's place and function, but that is not to rule over our lives and keep us weighed down over things we cannot change.

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  10. i needed to read this. thank you.

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    1. I need to re-read it every now and then too Trusting Poet. Sometimes I start replaying tapes from the past and wondering why I did some of those things. What's the point of that? It's far better to focus on the much wiser choices I am making for my life now. Progress is something to be proud of!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)