It’s such a harsh word. GUILT. It seems to scream “Villain!” or “Bad!”
Having been born and raised Catholic, I’ve felt my share of guilt as I was growing up. And that guilt is still laced throughout my daily life. When I’m feeling uncomfortable and don’t seem to know why, I can usually find it’s connected to feeling guilty about something.
But what I’ve found throughout the years, is that guilt is not necessarily a bad thing. There is such a thing as healthy guilt. It’s learning to recognize the difference.
Healthy guilt shows when I’ve acted less than loving, when I’ve done or said something I knew was wrong, and that I’ve likely compromised a moral standard that is part of my compass. It can be a behavior guide, offering a checks and balances system.
What’s not healthy, however, is feeling guilt about things beyond my control. Or when guilt is the byproduct of false self-importance. When I can pinpoint the discomfort I’m feeling as guilt, I have to stop and wonder why I think I’m so powerful as to control outcomes and events or why I think I’m so special that someone having a bad day would actually be about me.
When I feel guilty about something, I can let it paralyze me from moving forward, getting stuck in the rut of self-pity, or I can put on my big girl panties and climb out of that rut, make amends if needed, and move forward.
Not the person someone thinks I should be or good enough to meet their standards? Not in my control. Let it go.
Missed my daily word quota? Forgive myself and move on. Or better yet, make it up the next day.
Said something harsh or unloving to my husband or kids? Sincerely apologize, setting a healthy example of how to right a wrong, and move on.
“True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is.” -R.D. Laing