I struggle daily with guilt, usually in the form of “mom-guilt” but really, find me one mother who doesn’t. However, I also have always felt a strong sense of guilt over other things, everything really, even when I seemingly had no reason to.s a child, I was never a very good liar. I would always end up feeling so lousy and ridden with guilt that I would confess almost immediately, and then beg for mercy and forgiveness. I blame this, at least in part, to my much older sisters who tauntingly insisted that if I was lying, even just a little bit, a “black spot” would appear on my tongue. The haunting black spot torment, I like to refer to it as.
I vividly can recall them teasing me relentlessly, insisting, “Someone is lying! I see a black spot!” This would cause me to screech indignantly, take off down the hallway and burst into the bathroom to check out my tongue in the vanity mirror. Perhaps this seemingly innocent yet militant taunting is what caused my inability to lie convincingly.
Jovial teasing from my older siblings’ aside, I often feel guilt for things that I am not even remotely connected to. I could be sitting on a bus as it pulls away from the curb, failing to stop and wait for the frazzled college student racing along the sidewalk beside us, and I would still feel shameful. Why should I feel guilty that I am going to make it to work on time, while the student will inevitably be late for his class? I was not driving the bus. I did not tell the bus driver to ignore the young man’s frantic arms, waving for him to stop and wait. I did not cause him to sleep through his alarm and have to hustle even more than every other day. Yet, there I will sit, the whole rest of the ride to work, feeling disappointed and ashamed that the bus driver did not stop and wait for him.
What is the point of guilt, really? I read a few different theories on this. One says guilt is necessary in order to motivate us to do the right thing, behave the kindest, truest way. Another says, it It can shift the balance of power in a relationship and it’s one way of atoning for your sins. But the more convincing article I read was on www.psychcentral.com and it describes what I personally feel to be true: guilt is not good.
Guilt. Rarely has one small word been so widely misunderstood. Guilt is frequently viewed as a virtue, as a high sense of responsibility and morality. The truth, however, is that guilt is the greatest destroyer of emotional energy. It leaves you feeling immobilized in the present by something that has already occurred.”
As the author in the article states, of course we all need to have a conscious. However, we also need to remember that we cannot change the past, no matter how much we wish we could. I am guilty (see what I did there? ha-ha) of carrying around excessive guilt and obsessing about what I could have – should have said/done in a certain situations to change the results but doing so is counterproductive. It won’t help alter the past or suddenly make me a better person. So, rather than allow myself to be bogged down by feeling guilty, I will make note of how I feel and make amends with myself and move on. Life is too short to spend it full of regrets!