Guilt manifests itself in our lives in ways we can’t see ourselves. I didn’t even know I had a problem until a friend asked me “were you raised Catholic?” I didn’t know what she was talking about until she said, “you are driven by guilt!”
That stopped me in my tracks – my jaw dropped! As hard as it was, I had to admit she was right. I felt guilty about everything. I felt guilty because I was never good enough, was never able to offer enough, and could never ‘do’ enough.
There’s a quote that rings so true for me that I want to share with you, “guilt is an emotion that people experience because they’re convinced they’ve caused harm”. It is by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D and she goes on to talk about the five causes of guilt:
Guilt Cause #1: Guilt for something you did.
Guilt Cause #2: Guilt for something you didn’t do, but want to.
Guilt Cause #3: Guilt for something you think you did.
Guilt Cause #4: Guilt that you didn’t do enough to help someone.
Guilt Cause #5: Guilt that you’re doing better than someone else.
Driving home from my friend’s house that day I felt it in every cell of my body “I am so done with guilt!”
From that day on, whenever that feeling of guilt crept back in (which was often), I stopped and looked at the emotion from all sides. It’s almost like holding a ball in your hand that has ‘guilty’ written all over it. But instead of letting the guilt poison you (and suffer the side-effects) looking at the emotion allows you to disconnect from the guilt and see it for what it is.
The next time you feel guilty, review these five causes of guilt. If needed, apologize…and the rest of the ‘guilt’s – let it go, because guilt is the fuel behind over-pleasing and anxiety.