Erma Bombeck said, “Guilt: The gift that keeps on giving.” Unless you’re a person with high psychopathic tendencies, you know exactly what she’s talking about.
Thief or Guardian?
Guilt is a thief that steals your joy if you’re not careful.
But it can also be a guardian that protects you from unnecessary hardship and unhappiness.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, guilt is “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.”
Allowing guilt to prompt us to do the right thing is an excellent use of guilt. Thoughts of not keeping our promises, being dishonest, or not following through can trigger guilty feelings that motivate us into action.
But guilt can easily be an anchor that holds us back and drags our spirits down.
Test Your Guilt
The next time you notice that you’re feeling guilty about something, evaluate why and ask if it’s “productive” guilt – guilt that’s urging you to do the right thing or take action on your dreams and goals – or the kind of guilt that holds you back and keeps you stuck.
What Will You Do?
The big problem with guilt is that it can keep you from doing what you know and feel you should be doing, which we’ve mentioned already. Maybe you’ve reached a point where things are falling into place, and you’re happy with how things are going, but your guilt makes you feel you don’t deserve to be happy.
In that situation, the guilt you’re feeling will prevent you from committing fully and giving it everything you have.
Guilt will bleed energy and joy from your life, compromising your determination and sabotaging your efforts because you don’t feel you deserve happiness and success.
Guilt can become the “perfect” reason that justifies giving up, especially when things get tough because you believe the effort is a waste of time or isn’t worth it in the grand scheme of things. So you take the easy path. You stop resolving conflicts and finding solutions instead of doing whatever it takes to live your life on your terms.
The next time guilty feelings plague you, take a few minutes to process your guilt to see where it’s coming from so you can boost your chances of saving that relationship, achieving your dreams, or creating the life you truly desire for yourself and your loved ones.