April 23 – Guilt

Guilt drives us to do many things we otherwise would not do. We put ourselves out in the name of others. We tolerate intolerable situations. We let our guilt decide our fates and steer the course of our lives, even when it makes us miserable. We make choices out of guilt and fear that we would never otherwise allow ourselves to make. When we live our lives driven by guilt, we suffer in silence.

calm body of water

On the topic of guilt, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“We are often experts in guilt. Certainly we have learned it from masters. We unquestionably and with great doggedness go about our assigned tasks without a grumble or reproach.
We are armed, however, with our sighs, our clenched teeth, our pathetic looks of acceptance, and our sagging shoulders. Our favorite phrase is, ‘That’s okay,’ but we don’t really mean it. One of our greatest skills is suffering, and we do it so well. We get our pound of flesh, and we lose our souls in the process.”

While we may never outwardly complain, those of us who let guilt dictate our decisions grow resentful. We bemoan the people whom we “help” out of guilt, and rather than confront the person directly and honestly, we choose to complain to anyone else who will listen. We are bitter and angry; we sigh and grit our teeth, as Anne says. In truth, however, the blame lies with us. Guilt is just a manifestation of fear, and if we were to confront our feelings instead of letting them control our lives, we would be far happier for it. Any decision I have made out of guilt or obligation to another person has never felt good. It’s a denial of our true feelings, and as such, it’s a denial of self. The ironic thing is that we choose to act of guilt to avoid feeling bad, but we end up suffering anyway.

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