Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Guilt is one of the most debilitating human conditions. Guilt can make us feel miserable and may affect the way we relate to people. It really is the most useless of feelings – why feel guilty and flagellate ourselves over something we have done, should have done but didn’t, or should not have done but did! What is done cannot be undone. These thoughts of guilt keep circling around in our mind – we can’t seem to get rid of them!! “If only I had phoned.” “If only I had remembered.” “If only ....” “If only ....” We allow the feelings to build up inside us and this is really stressful. And stress is bad for our health.

Maybe we should write to our old ‘Aunt Jane’ who is eighty five years old, to thank her for the birthday present she sent us. But we keep putting it off until it becomes such an embarrassment that we hope it will just go away and she will forget about it. We feel guilty for not writing to her, yet we do nothing about it. Why? Is it because we can only offer some embarrassingly lame excuse?

How many of us have borrowed something – money, or a book, from someone and either forgotten to pay them back, or deliberately not paid them back because we are short of funds (or we like the book!). Then by chance we happen to see them walking down the sidewalk towards us so, hoping they have not noticed us, we immediately duck into the nearest shop to avoid eye contact and having to speak to them. Sound familiar? Why?

Feelings of guilt arise because we allow them to. We are more often than not guided by what we think will be someone’s opinion of us. But so what! What he (or she) thinks of us is their problem not ours. And how do we actually KNOW that is what they are thinking? We cannot possibly know! It is what we think they will be thinking. We are so certain about this that there are no maybes, ifs or buts about it. That is what they WILL be thinking. So our immediate life, our happiness and well being is being coloured by what we think someone else is thinking! Does that really make sense?

And for goodness sake why take it so personally? No one ever does, or says anything because of us. They do and say what they do because of their view of the world – their reality and their dreams. This we cannot alter. They think that their view of the world, coloured as it will be by their experiences gives them the right to be judgemental about us. They do not actually KNOW us. They may have met us once or twice, even socialised quite often. However, they have no idea what our life was like up to the time they met us nor have they any idea of what we have done since we last met. So they have based their judgements and opinion of us on possibly a few hours of our life!

And why make assumptions – why assume someone thinks a certain way about us? It will be difficult but important to have the gumption to ask questions. Ask them why they are saying what they are about us. We need to talk to others; to communicate with others as clearly as we can to avoid misunderstandings. This will not be easy but it will certainly clear up many issues and can completely transform our life.

Guilt will disappear and a big load will be lifted.

1 comment:

Brock Atkinson said...

I believe that guilt was all thanks to the evolutionary process that humans have gone through, from way back in the Hunter-Gatherer society.

During a hunt, if a person deceived another, causing them to get stuck, injured, or even killed, it caused them guilt on the other person's behalf, because the tribe was stronger as a larger group. If guilt hadn't been invented (and I do believe it was invented by someone), people would have been left alone, possibly died, and the tribes wouldn't have survived very long.

You're correct though in that guilt, nowadays, has turned petty. Whilst it was originally meant to stop a person from causing the death of another (and eventually the tribal society they lived in), it now applies to every walk and facet of life, so much so that people are plagued and ruled by their own guilt.