On guilt. Part one.

What is it that you actually feel when you say you feel guilty? Guilt is not an emotion, it is a state of mind. It is self-destructive and self-abusive and downright horrible. When you say you feel guilty, you probably feel bad about something. Perhaps you regret the behaviour or the outcome. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sorry, it just means that you have done something that you think you shouldn’t have done. “Shoulds” just like “musts” are thoughts, not feelings. They are derived from processes that we think are reasonable, ie. I should not kiss another man because it will hurt my boyfriend.

But once what’s done is done, how does feeling guilty help in any way? It doesn’t. Guilt is not a feeling, it is a judgment. It is the opposite of innocent. So the only thing that is accomplished by “feeling guilty” is passing judgment on oneself and condemning an action or behaviour or whatever it was, sometimes just a thought or a desire. The problem with that is that it’s unfair. You can’t be the same person who accuses, defends and condemns you all at once. You need to be your friend. You need to be able to analyse and understand what leads to the desire to act a certain way. Feeling bad is one thing, but it’s not going to make a change. Regretting something is normal too. It’s okay to regret a behaviour. It’s not okay to keep beating yourself up over it.

Here’s the worst thing about guilt: it opens you up to abuse. It makes you vulnerable to manipulation. Religions would not survive if it weren’t for this kind of thinking.

So what do you do instead?

Try to be fair. Be honest. Accept the mistake. Accept the humanity of your nature. Take responsibility and find what led you there in the first place. Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love. Learn your lesson and forgive yourself.

If you’re being rude because you’re stressing, realise you’re stressing. Apologise. Don’t make excuses. Own the mistake. Find what’s stressing you out. It could be many things, nothing in life is isolated. Take one thing at a time and figure out how it affects your behaviour and your happiness. That will help you prioritise what’s important. Finally, make the change.

Don’t just admire the people around you. They are might be further down the path but the path is open and all you need to do is start walking. Keep going forward and soon enough there will be others that you will be ahead of. It’s a life long journey and it’s great if you learn to be your own friend because that way you can be everyone’s friend 🙂