Having grown up as the only grandchild on my mom’s very stereotypically Jewish side of the family, I know all about guilt. I know all about high expectations, at first imposed by others and later self-imposed. And, of course, I know a lot about disappointment… because, after all, life never turns out exactly as you expected.
I am not a fan of these emotions, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Of course, guilt has its place. It is a helpful reminder of morality and helps you to learn from your mistakes. However, oftentimes I let guilt control me. It is at this point when guilt becomes a negative force, causing you to become swallowed up by past mistakes rather than helping you grow from them.
Next time you feel yourself getting overwhelmed by guilt, take a step back. Remember that every action taken in the past has been part of the foundation of the present moment. If you went back and changed whatever actions/thoughts/words/whatever it is you are feeling guilty about, the present would be forever changed.
Let’s look at my current feelings of guilt. I have recently been looking back at my childhood, and I have realized that I was not the best of friends to someone I love dearly. Because I was dealing with a lot of internal stuff, I never bothered to look outside of myself and see that I could have easily been hurting someone I love more than words can express.
If I went back in time and changed this behavior, some things in the present may be changed for the better. For example, perhaps this friend would feel a stronger sense of independence and self-control if I hadn’t been such a control freak as a child. At the same time, I would not have fixed my own issues and I would not be able to be a source of support for this same friend as she goes through struggles today.
After all, even if my feelings of guilt convince me that I am, on some level, responsible for what is happening, I am not solely responsible. Even if I had acted in a way that I approve of in hindset, my friend would still have struggles. It is not my fault. Since I have fought my demons, albeit unfortunately at the expense of those around me at the end, I am now able to help others fight theirs. If I changed the past, this would not be the case.
How do you ward off feelings of guilt? Perhaps even more important – how do you prevent them? Share below!