I am Paralyzed With Guilt!
Guilt is the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime. Guilt can be a show stopper and a game changer no doubt. It’s a natural built in human emotion that can be very beneficial if we listen. I welcome healthy guilt; it keeps me from repeating an offense. There is no point in me asking you if you have ever felt guilty, sure you have.
How did you deal with it, or have you? If not, you could be paralyzed.
Over the years, I have done and said some boneheaded things. Most of the time I knew I had messed up the moment I did, but often it's later when the revelation comes. Sometimes we are completely in the dark of a misspoken word, standby, you will get to deal with this situation at a later date.
I want to encourage you not to have unrealistic expectations of yourself; no one is perfect. If you can learn not to be in a performance-based mode, you will be much better off. Striving for perfection in every area of your life can be exhausting. This is not permission to slack off, I want to do my best in everything I do, I just don’t want to feel perfection is the goal.
So, when guilt shows up, what do you do? First, I would evaluate the offense. Did you really do something wrong or have you self-imposed a value system that is unhealthy or possibly even unrealistic? As a Christian, God’s Word, The Bible is my standard. I weigh all my thoughts and actions against His Word. As a person of faith, this is my moral and ethical standard.
When I do anything that I feel has compromised my belief system I have to make a decision as how to most effectively deal with my emotions. Living in a state of guilt can be very harmful emotionally and equally harmful physically under the immense pressures of stress. I have found in my personal life that confronting guilt sooner, rather than later, has proven to be a stress eliminator.
Admitting you have wronged someone is the very beginning of ridding yourself of guilt. Pride and ego many times will prevent us from taking such an admirable leap. I strongly suggest that you be a person of responsibility and take ownership of your spoken words and actions.
When we try to pass the buck or bend the truth, we invariably dig the hole a little deeper. My dad used to tell me to, "stand up and be a man, take your medicine”. When I was young, I did not want to own up to being wrong and would even lie to save face.What I soon learned was it was was less severe dealing with the problem early, rather than later. There were always more consequences to navigate the longer the atrocity was sidelined. I have found it’s the very same results dealing with guilt.
The longer we sweep it under the rug, the more damage it causes.
Years ago there were a couple of transgressions I was guilty of, and I could not for the life of me get over it. First of all, I did not want to expose it for fear of repercussions and dealing with the possible shame that accompanied it. I had painted these horrific, worst case scenarios in my mind that I knew would be the outcome.
When we have skeletons looming in the shadows, we are held captive in our own mind. We are paralyzed with fear. We think not knowing the outcome of exposing the thing we are guilty of is worse than keeping the secret. This is the lie we tell ourselves “don’t tell anyone, they will think less of me” or “if I reveal that, I will never be respected or trusted again.” The problem with this is we constantly have to deal with the guilt internally.
When we are so bound up with this endless turmoil,
we are prohibited from being our best self.
Ideas are limited; creativity is squelched, and freedom to
live a purposeful and meaningful life is elusive.
I would suggest the following action steps when dealing with guilt.
- Write out the offense where you can see it on paper. Learn from your mistake and attempt never to repeat it. Take the written document and place it in an envelope. Gather a couple trusted friends and burn the letter in an open fire. You can share the envelope's content or not, this depends on you. The reason for doing this is there needs to be a designated time that you can point to and say "on this day I gave it up." You can put a stake in the ground and always point to a specified point in time that you gave up this problem. Without question, this helps in removing the guilt because there was a point in history that this was a problem, but no more.
- Consult trusted advisors. There is wisdom in the council of the multitudes. Put your idea of shame behind you and consult with a few you can trust. When you are transparent to a few, many times they have a new perspective and can help you navigate the guilt and suggest a remedy that you may have overlooked.
- Be very careful clearing your own conscious. I strongly urge you to think through how you clear your guilty conscious. If you are sharing to cover yourself, you may be imposing your situation on someone that now has to deal with it as opposed to someone that might have a helpful solution. If you are merely covering yourself, this is pretty selfish. Be selective in who you share with and diligently search your motive.
If you want to live a life of success and significance, guilt is something you want to deal with swiftly, don't be afraid of rejection. The freedom you will experience as a direct result of eliminating this unwanted feeling is priceless.
Live on purpose,