Guilt is a wasted emotion. We can’t change what has already been lived. This is a fact. So why do we all seem to willingly spend so much of our precious energy and time of consciousness on feeling guilty. Going over and over in our minds what we think we did wrong and wishing that we had done things differently. We berate ourselves and beat ourselves up until we are black and blue on the inside. Sometimes we even go to the extreme of hurting ourselves on the outside as well like engaging in risk taking behaviour or perhaps cutting ourselves off from relationships and support around us because we think we don’t deserve others who are better than us or receiving support or friendship from others after what we have done.
Life can be challenging, we are all hear learning as best we can. Sometimes in this process we might fumble it up a bit. There is no one alive who hasn’t done or said something or perhaps thought something that they wish they could take back or do over. These are our learning opportunities. When we see that we have caused pain to another or to ourselves through our actions, omissions, words and assumptions we make, it is a chance for us to recognise that there is something here we need to take note of. It is an opportunity for mindfulness, for questioning, challenging, wondering, what might have helped the situation, what could we do differently next time? what did we learn from this that we can take with us into the future and create better outcomes?
None of us will get through life without having these experiences because that is what life is all about. Learning and growing. Therefore, none of us is any better or worse than anyone else, we are all in the same boat. The only sure thing about it, is that we will all stumble at some point. It is not a question of if but when. Okay, some of us make a bit of a bigger mess of it than others but the great thing about making a big mess is that it is a huge opportunity for growth and learning – for taking a big leap forward in our growth.
Okay, take a moment to let those feelings of “oh ooooh” wash over you, because that is the moment of conscious awakening that something has not worked out the way we had hoped. That is our signal that this is something important to learn from. So we do need to notice and feel it for a moment and let the lesson filter through. However, it is when we stay stuck in the “oh no, I stuffed up” and replay it over and over in our minds that is when the we lose the plot. We miss the point. We then become stuck in the “poor me” phase. Where we stop being concerned so much about the impact on others and actually start feeling sorry for ourselves. “I feel so bad about this and there is nothing I can do, I just have to feel horrible and that is my punishment”. How does this help anyone really? It is actually quite a selfish thing in reality and it keeps us stuck in the murkiness and dark. Not able to focus on something constructive, like learning the lesson and doing better next time.
So what can we do instead you may ask. Well, here is a step by step process to follow that can help you to move forward:
- Feel the “oh no” and acknowledge your part in it for a moment. Just long enough to allow for understanding of why the part you played is making you feel that you have not put your best foot forward here.
- Take responsibility for your actions/words/assumptions – apologise to any party who you may have hurt and tell the person what it is that you feel you have done. Ask them is there is anything you can do to help them feel better or right the situation. What is it that they now need from you.
- Ask yourself 2 important questions. “What did I learn from this and what would I do differently next time? The difference between ruminating on “I wish this had not happened” and thinking about what you could do differently next time is that “I wish this had not happened is not going to change anything, it is about being stuck in the past that you can not change, playing it over in your mind is not going to make it come out differently. “what can I do differently next time” is future oriented, it allows you to plan and practise in the now, how you might handle any such similar event in the future, it is still possible to create change and build a more positive future so putting your attention here is actually useful.
- Put into action now whatever you need to so that you will be better prepared for any similar future events.
- Forgive and be kind to yourself. If you have realised your error, taken responsibility for it (genuinely) and put in place steps to redress the situation and bring about positive change for the future, then there is really nothing more you need to do. Know that we will all be in these kinds of situations periodically in our lives even when we have the best of intentions to do no harm to others. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have in our tool belt for coping with life. The more we experience the more tools we gain. You are acceptable and you are fallible. You are infinitely loved and valued by the All that is regardless and because of these things.
- Let it go and move forward with your life to new lessons. The great thing about learning a lesson and really “getting it” is that it is likely that you won’t repeat the same patterns in your life. When we stay stuck in the “poor me I messed it up, I am a horrible person” pattern and we don’t give ourselves enough distance emotionally from the situation to really learn the lesson, we can be assured that another opportunity will be sent our way to finally get the lesson. This is what is happening when we find ourselves in the same kinds of situations repeatedly, they people and landscape may be slightly different but that feeling of “I have been here before” comes over us. At that moment if we can realise, “oh I am here again because I did not get it the first time” and really pay attention this time to what the lesson is then maybe this will be the last time we have to go through the unpleasantness of it all. However, if we go back into the “poor me, Why does this always happen to me.” then it is likely we will not get the lesson again.
- Always hold compassion for others. Since we all know that we are all likely to “get it wrong” at some point. Let us all have compassion for others who may be in that situation before our eyes right now. If someone comes to you for forgiveness, be compassionate and generous with them if you sense they are being genuine. As you might need that compassion and generosity from someone else in the future and what goes around comes around as they say. (law of cause and effect or Karma)
- Finally, If you have genuinely taken responsibility for your actions and apologised, tried to redress the situation as best you can and learned from this so that you will do better next time and there are other people involved who seem determined not to let it go or forgive you. Do not allow that to cause you to go back into or stay in guilt. For you have done your part with the best of intentions and if others are not able to let go and move forward that is now their own stuff that they are working through. Allow this to be okay, if that is where they need to be then all is as it should be for them. But do not let this prevent you from moving forward and getting on with your life free from guilt. You will find in life that other’s are not always able to let things go and move forward, perhaps if they have been deeply hurt they are not ready to move through this and that is okay for this is their journey. In such cases, you need to forgive yourself and let this be enough for you. Self love and compassion is all you really need to know that you are acceptable and loveable. When others are able to give you these things that is just the gravy on top. Know that whether or not others are able to forgive and love you right now, the All that is loves you always and there is nothing to forgive in the eyes of this infinitely loving and wise energy that connects and runs through us all. So you are okay. Love is always right there for you whenever you need it.