Guilt and shame get such a bad rap. I understand how they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, neither guilt or shame make us feel good; it makes us feel small, like we want crawl under something and just disappear. Guilt and shame are awful feelings to have… however if they can serve a purpose are they really all that bad?
I used to hate guilt – I’d tell people I have no use for it! However, despite my attempts to reject it – I kept feeling it. Its perseverance has helped me to recognize the gifts of guilt and shame.
Guilt has served me well over the years. It has helped me to be a better a friend, to myself and others. It’s helped me recognize when I wasn’t living my values or when I was doing something for the wrong reason. It has made me kinder, more patient and understanding. Guilt serves as a moral compass, pointing me towards how to be a better person when I forget… and we all forget every now and then. I’m grateful to guilt, for being the kick in the butt I’ve needed when I’ve slacked off on my exercise routine, the inspiration I’ve needed to write a new blog post (like this one ) and the empowerment I’ve needed when I’ve been tempted to give my power away to someone or something outside of myself.
Making friends with guilt is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Now when it creeps in – and oh I know the feeling so well that I can usually sense when it’s been triggered even the slightest – when it creeps in, I pay attention. I ask myself: “What am I compromising in this moment? Which one of my values am I stepping on? What is my intention? What do I really want to do or say? What is most important to me?” Or if the feeling has come in “after – the – fact” then I’ll ask myself: “What was my intention at the time? Was that the best I could do in the moment, given what I knew then? Would I do it again? What would I do differently next time?”
Most importantly… I ask myself whether I need to apologize to someone and if so, I do. As a friend, guilt and shame can make you think before choosing and reflect after the fact to learn and grow from experience.
Guilt helps me take responsibility for myself, to be responsible of me and who I am choosing to be. By working with the feelings of guilt or shame when they come up, instead of trying to deny their existence or push them away, I give myself the opportunity of expressing the better version of myself in that moment.
Yes – guilt feels awful and can make you want to curl up and disappear – however if you let it, it will show you its gift and help you stand tall and shine. Your choice!