From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
is a cognitive
or an emotional
experience that occurs when a person believes
—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral
standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.
It is closely related to the concept of remorse
guilt | dictionary.com
the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability:
He admitted his guilt.
a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.:
to live a life of guilt.
to cause to feel guilty(often followed by out or into):
She totally guilted me out, dude. He guilted me into picking up the tab.
The Useless & Confusing Nature of Guilt
The two definitions above are the common ideas of what guilt means. Yes, one can be found guilty of a crime and one can live the proverbial “life of assigned guilt” by the narrow minded views of society. However, what I would like to explore is the nature of guilt within our individual psyche and how destructively confusing, energetically wasteful and useless it is. Based on my personal experience, there are far too many people walking around mistakenly thinking or believing within a distorted religious format that guilt is some sort of a virtue that helps a person make positive decisions. It is not.
So what do I know about guilt?
Guilt is an ingrained pattern of thinking based in an insecure fear-based concept of self-hatred. Self-hatred or self-loathing is not a guidance system. The idea of guilt overwhelms the inner positive qualities that help us navigate life in a trustworthy, reasonably peaceful manner that is practical, compassionate and wise. When we are able to access our inner wisdom, we make positive decisions. When we allow ourselves to be guided by guilt, we resist our own inner positive nature, centered in wisdom, and rather lean upon suspicion and lack of trust. We do this because we don’t trust our own self as being able to make good decisions, which makes us even more reactive and unstable. In guilt, we habitually shift our focus from higher innate truth, toward small distorted ingrained ideas based in insecurity, fear, lack of self-esteem, false identity and deception. It is extremely confusing to think that way. It divides us from our higher-self, our indwelling Christ, our wisdom center. The use of the delusion of guilt and other distorted negative false beliefs systems as a method to navigate through life–accepting any hateful ideas that tell us we are “less than” and “inherently evil”–will always be unreliable at best because they are a cause of schismed thinking that is destructively detrimental and guaranteed to bring great suffering.
No one is less. No one is more. All are equally precious and sacred. In that forum, guilt cannot exist. There is no room for it.
If we hurt someone’s feelings or do harm to someone else, real or imagined, it is not guilt that guides us to make things right. It is love and compassion. It is integrity. It is the desire to be a better human being.
Regret should only be a moment of reflection that brings us to rectify past wrongs in the higher minded manner of bringing about healing, reconciliation and release. Regret is not useful other than that. And regret and remorse are not the same as guilt. If we think of them the same way, then we need to adjust our own awareness of how we are thinking to understand who we are in truth. Regret and remorse are feelings directly in relation to the past that can be resolved with positive effort. We cannot live in the past. We can understand it, forgive and move on. We also cannot live in the future thinking of how we are going to screw things up. Not a healthy point of view either. We should live in the present moment with deliberate awareness and do the best we can with what we have.
Guilt is a way of seeing everything as being our fault. Guilty people are easy to manipulate. And people who cannot shed the false burden of guilt are frustrated, confused, stagnated and despairing people who seem to really only want to be beautiful lights of love and compassion in a world of darkness. The ensnared “Guilty” souls have yet to figure out how to be that light. These people are usually sensitive, empathically connected and sympathetic to the needs of those around them, and would genuinely like to help others, but feel they cannot without failure or fault. They ruin their own joy by not being able to realize–or accept as truth–that at the core of who they are they are already dazzlingly in the divine sense of perfection. So stop trying to be humanly perfect–because that is not ever going to happen–and embrace the expansive mysteriously divine forgiving perfection hidden within the messiness of our own being and in all life.
Let me share a little fairytale story to further explain.
Butterfly the Free
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was taught that she was not worthy. Although she was perfect in everyway–intelligent, compassionate, joyful and loving–she was taught something all together differently about who she was. Throughout her childhood she was told by her parents through words and actions that she was not good enough, nor lovable. She was repeatedly told she was stupid, and inferior because she was female. She was regularly yelled at, and sternly told that she was irritating and annoying to be around, a financial burden to everyone, and that her presence–truth be told–was not wanted or appreciated. Now even though children all through the ages are unfortunately taught false detrimental ideas by unpleasant ignorant parents, family and social structures about of who they are at a young age, this particular little girl for whatever mysterious reason decided that those words–those hateful ideas forced upon her–were in fact not true.
As she grew into adulthood, this beautiful little girl resisted the cruelness of what she had heard and witnessed through her life so far. Yet even though she resisted, those horrible voices went everywhere with her in her own mind, as we all carry forth our abusers, belittlers and naysayers until we pull them out by the roots. In essence, during this part of her life, the voices won. But the voices only were victorious over her life until things became so dark that she was forced to face her greatest fears or die. And as a spoiler alert, she eventually broke forth from her past, and sloughed off the nasty burden of what was said and done to her. And she became like a brand new being made of indestructible light–a new creature dedicated to life and truth.
For most of her life the girl, we will call her Butterfly the Free, was greatly troubled by what she felt within her mind and emotions. It made her insecure and frightened of everything, particularly good things like love, success, prosperity and respect. No matter what she did, Butterfly felt surely she was not good enough. She felt guilty for everything, even good things. When she spoke up to someone in truth–a necessary essential truth–she constantly apologized. Somehow Butterfly felt that her truth was a burden that no one else could handle. She projected some imagined false sense of harm in an exaggerated delusional idea that even when she was being honest and sincere that it was bad or even evil to discomfort others emotionally or mentally. She didn’t seem to understand that we are all responsible for our own inner negative emotional and mental baggage, because we carry it around and inflict it on others if we don’t seek to understand it and embrace our own unique healing process. We cannot be responsible for everyone else’s comfort. We can however be kind, compassionate and helpful. But in order to really help others, we have to help ourselves by working out our own conflicting issues.
Inflicting our inner garbage onto others makes life bad for everyone. On the contrary, being compassionately honest, ethical, having self-esteem and self respect will inevitably make things better for everyone in the higher idea of living a non-harmful life, despite the conflict it might bring. We cannot avoid conflict. Conflict is part of life as a human being. Feeling interior emotional and mental discomfort is a valid part of spiritual growth, which we all need to learn how to cope with in order to become better, more emotionally literate people. Emotionally literate people have a much better skills that can insure having healthy, positive, happier relationships. So Butterfly chronically apologized because she was afraid that what she said would offend whoever she was communicating with and cause a conflict. And she feared conflict. She feared offending others. She felt that conflict would ultimately result in rejection. Hostility and rejection was her greatest fear. Hostility and rejection had been her life experience so far.
Hostility and rejection leads to isolation. And isolation is a lonely place for one who treasures love. And we all treasure being loved and being able to love on some level.
Butterfly was so unsure of herself that when she spoke truth, she was immediately afraid of rejection, which made her a reactionary insecure mess. She felt guilty for making others uncomfortable, even when that other was a raging jackass. She let guilt consume her life. Every decision she made, even if she knew for sure it was the right and ethical decision, was accompanied by feelings of guilt. If she actually made a mistake, it was unforgiveable in her own mind. And everyone makes mistakes, so she was doomed to struggle with depression because of how she thought about herself. Because of this, she strived so desperately to be perfect, to live up to some unrealistic idea of human perfection that would appease the hateful parental voices in her mind and make them finally proud enough to be silent forever more. And that really is a fairytale. One that will never-ever-ever have a happy ending. Yet, Butterfly does have her happy future regardless.
Appeasing the voices of abuse is impossible. There are people, both real and imagined, that will never be appeased by anything or anyone. So don’t try. There are many people who have learned to use guilt to manipulate others quite effectively. And this is not a good thing on either side of the equation. Manipulating others is a no-no. And on the other hand, do not try to live up to the flighty fleeting irrational pissy unrelenting standards set by the voices of the ugly abusers in our own heads. No one can validate our worth, but our selves. We have to find love for our self within our self, and then work ongoing to live life within our own concept of what’s right, compassionate and good for the sake of our sanity and happiness. We must break free of the delusional habit of needing approval and validation. We must get to the point where we can authentically feel and declare, “Who cares what other people think about me! I am the only one who needs to feel good about what I am, what I think and what I do!”
Butterfly the Free, before she was free, felt guilty for everything good she did as well. Doing something good and right was not the immediate cause of the guilt problem. It was that after she did something good and right, people where still displeased. Her being able to do good things and right things made many people uncomfortable, to the point of these same people becoming rather cranky, antagonistic and condescending toward her. So when she was brilliant, she felt sadly guilty. It made her want to hide her amazing abilities. She tended to stay hunkered down like a beaten dog, which is not to be confused with being the virtue of humility. Being demeaned–even self-demeaned–is not humility. It is merely a result of abuse disguised in another form. Humility is simply realistically knowing our abilities without being an egotistical braggart about it. The Dalai Lama said something to the effect of this on the topic of confidence; it’s like being tall. When you are tall you can reach higher places. Being able to reach something someone else cannot does not make you better. It just makes you tall.
The end of Butterfly’s story was also the beginning. One day Butterfly met a mystical revered spiritual teacher. He taught her special prayers and helped her understand who she was in the core of her being. He taught her that she was everything infinitely good, pure and wise. One morning not long after talking to this spiritual master, she woke up and had strange new experience. She had no guilt. It was so radical to have no feelings of guilt, that Butterfly was initially frightened and amazed. How could she have gone through life so far without noticing that guilt had colored her every thought, action and view with a hazy perilous darkness? This new freedom from guilt was alarming at best.
Her first thought was, “How will I tell right from wrong?”
And within just a short time of reflecting on that idea, Butterfly understood how completely ridiculous it was to think that guilt was her interior guidance to truth and positive choices. Guilt was in fact a plague on her life, as it is a plague on everyone’s life. Guilt does not make us good people. Guilt does not inform our decisions in truth, but burdens them down with confusion and deception. Guilt is not a virtue. Rather, guilt is a weight worn about the neck that keeps one bowed to the false Gods of egotistical habitual self-abuse.
Butterfly was finally free! She realized immediately that her true guidance is the deep innate wisdom within her already and that she would have to learn to trust that abiding wisdom. This inner divine Wisdom Guidance is pure eternally aware and omnipotent, and centered at its core is pure goodness, love and compassion. This is where she will find her answers. This is what she will pull on to make her good choices. This is the quality of virtue that can successfully help us navigate life. And with this revelation, Butterfly finally successfully and faithfully allowed herself to accept a new clear viewpoint so she could live the rest of her life with joy and accuracy. And at her ending and beginning, she flew away to pursue a happier life, free from the weight of useless confusing guilt.
So this is the end and the beginning of the little story of Butterfly.
And further more, we do not need guilt.
In a more straightforward and realistic manner, guilt is not good for anyone. Shame is not what we need to have making our decisions, but rather something we need to heal within ourselves. Shame is a sense of doing something we are not proud of. It could be seen as guilt, or it can be something all together different. But what shame and guilt have in common is they do not help us, other than to enable us to see something that needs to change in our life. Shame is something that needs to be healed, and it might be a warning to create a more positive environment through positive choices. Guilt we’ve already discussed. We cannot let our habitual patterns of thinking and false ideas ruin our lives by stunting our potential growth, and placing joy and happiness out of our reach.
There is confusion to what is guidance and what is not. We must learn how to discern goodness and truth. If it isn’t compassionate, it is not from God. And in that manner of speaking, if it isn’t God, it isn’t who we are in truth. All good gifts are from above. Focus on trusting higher truth, instead of letting our doubts, fear, insecurities and self-inflicted punishments consume our possibilities. Simply this, we cannot appease anyone but the divine within our own self, and all that takes is love, forgiveness of self, and being open to a better viewpoint. And if we seek truth, which we must bravely do, then we will have conflict. And conflict is part of life. Life requires great effort and courage. Guilt keeps us hemmed into a way of life that is small and fearful. It is bad programming that destroys happy life.
So look to the guilt we feel. Why is it there? Examine that. Work through our interior constructs of mind and emotion with compassionate awareness. Forgiveness for being an imperfect human being is necessary, particular towards one’s self. Prayer is essential. Ask for truth. Seek it. Allow it to transform our idea of who we think we are as opposed to who we are in truth. Allow it to show a divine perfection within our humanity that has nothing to do with our faulty human ideas. And let Holiness and Wholeness shine within our person for the sake of everyone, despite what anyone may think.
Shining is always a great thing to do.