Is it always possible to assuage guilt?

Guilt comes in many “flavors”. I’m not talking here about the small stuff. I’m talking about the big and heavy, like having done something or somebody wrong.

“What is guilt? It is moral self-reproach — I did wrong when it was possible to have done otherwise.” Nathaniel Branden

Speaking from personal experience, guilt is one of the heaviest burdens to carry. It can be isolating and disabling. It can undermine your sense of self worth. It can decimate your self confidence. Guilt can eat at you and eventually consume you altogether. Guilt is pervasive.

There are people who rather disclaim any liability than take corrective action. I feel sorry for them because as much as lying to others may succeed, lying to oneself doesn’t work.

The suffering caused by guilt usually isn’t caused by the party harmed or even the justice system but our own unwillingness to forgive ourselves.

The moment you acknowledge your failing / wrongdoing to the person you harmed or even only to yourself; the moment you make sincere and effective amends you’ll experience relief, YOU WILL BE FREE, again.

If you carry feelings of guilt, don’t deny it. Admit to yourself that you’ve done wrong and commit to doing something to amend for it.

The obvious way to assuage guilt would be to admit your wrongdoing to the injured party, apologize, make amends and move on. Unfortunately, it isn’t always an option.

In some cases, wrongdoing maybe impossible to amend for to the injured party, directly. In others, it may be too late to remedy the damage. If either one of the above scenarios applies to your predicament, make a positive difference to a related cause, a person or people in a similar situation: pitch in, volunteer or donate. Do good! In short, make a positive difference. Make a difference significant enough for you. It will help balance the scales. It may not be the same as forgiveness, but it is as close as it gets.
Call it amends by proxy. Call it catharsis by proxy. By any name, it works!

Once you know that you put an honest and successful effort into counterbalancing your wrongdoing, the original feelings of guilt will subside and you will gradually recover.

Bottom line: the feelings that burden us are the feelings we failed to confront. The longer you delay this “confrontation” the harder it will be to address them.

Guilt is human. Good people feel guilt, bad people don’t. Erring is human. The fact that you feel guilty speaks well of you.

If you are still hesitating, let me ask you a question. If your kid committed the exact same act as you did, how would you feel about your kid? Would you reject him? Would you stop loving him? Would you ban him from your life forever? If your answer happens to be a resounding “no”, shouldn’t you extend the same level of compassion to yourself?….

On the scale of your entire life: you’ve done plenty right and some wrong. The “wrongs” for which you didn’t amend produced the guilt that took over your life.

Don’t hesitate. Procrastination isn’t freedom. Counterbalancing your past wrongdoing will be a catharsis; a release from the prison of dirty conscience. You will be free to live, again. You’ll regain your personality and your self esteem. You’ll find pleasure in being social. You’ll be present in the moment. You’ll be emotionally available. You’ll remember your purpose in life. You’ll rediscover joy.

Guilt isn’t just a feeling. Guilt is also a task.

Take care of it, ASAP. You have a life to live. You have so much to give. You have a legacy to build. Don’t waste time.

Own your guilt. Take responsibility for it. Make amends. Reclaim your life: it is limited in time. You can’t afford to give any of it away.

“Make friends with guilt. Guilt is a beautiful emotion that alerts us when something is wrong so that we may achieve peace with our conscience. Without conscience there would be no morality. So we can greet guilt cordially and with acceptance, just as we do all other emotions. After we respond to guilt, it has done its job and we can release it.” Glenn R. Schiraldi

Own Your Guilt is one of a series of articles on feelings that impede our growth and rob us of joy. Feelings often own us. Each of the articles in this series addresses one feeling with the aim of helping you take charge and Own Your Feelings. We are here to learn, grow, succeed and be happy. No excess baggage should prevent us from living fully. Own Your Guilt and resume your life!

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  • Sturm Enrich

    Survivor, Thinker and Author

    I am a journalist, blogger and author. I’m passionate about personal development, healthy living, environmental issues, tolerance and ethics. (My articles on these topics are published by notable magazines and Websites.) I’m also Reverend Enrich, an ordained Humanist Minister since 2006 and the Founder of Holistic Church, a Church built on values, NOT beliefs. My calling is helping people live their best lives and building a supportive community based on shared values.