Swallowed By Guilt

No one is able to escape life without bumps and bruises along the way. This world is complicated, confusing, impossibly muddy and torturously difficult much of the time. As mere human beings, we make more than our fair share of mistakes. Let’s face it – there isn’t a rulebook or a user manual. We have no choice but to navigate with our own moral compass and try our best to figure things out as best we can on the fly. Things are bound to go awry, and often. It would seem logical then that we would be self-forgiving… given our odds of messing up and all, but most of us find it close to impossible to do so.

And I’m no one to talk. I was certainly more than guilty as charged in this regard. In fact, I could’ve dug up every imperfect moment of my life on the spot when asked, explaining in each case how the wrong choice had been made, and how terrible of a person I thought I was for letting it happen. Sometimes I would even pull up a memory from 20 years prior and torment myself for hours thinking about how I could have done it better…how I didn’t say the right thing….how my actions hurt someone else (who probably didn’t even remember the event took place at all) and then make sure I punished myself with enough guilt to somehow make me feel better about it. Forgiveness, it seemed, was a stellar option available only to other people. My own mistakes, however, were stockpiled and kept close at all times so I could re-examine them and re-experience their agony on a regular basis. I could pull out one of those bad boys at any given moment and completely ruin any day I felt inclined to. Fun times.

I had always admired people who seemed to be able to move on from situations so quickly. They would say their sorries and then just get back to living their life. My own mental chalkboard was completely filled up, but theirs seemed to automatically erase and start fresh each time. I wanted to be that way. Instead, I felt like I had a rope around my waist, dragging a huge bolder of weighty regrets with me wherever I went. And I had plenty of them.

Guilt is a very destructive emotion. It keeps you chained to the past, and constantly re-ignites gut wrenching feelings that should have been thrown away for good ages ago. It taints the present because that one little baby toe is always still wading in those painful memories. And the fear of guilt….that is a double whammy that can lead you to police your life to the point of no longer even really living if you let it. I flirted with the edge of this more times than I could count.

But I was able to finally free myself from this prison after I went on my own radical self development journey a few years back. I saw how this horrible habit was draining my life energy and distorting everything in its path. It was like I was viewing both my life and my own self in a funhouse mirror. When I finally did a little mental housecleaning, I began to see everything in a completely new light. In fact, when I got around to rationally thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that I actually really liked myself. I truly did believe I was a good person that routinely made the “right” decision most of the time. I determined I was kind, courteous, thoughtful and empathetic more than 99% of my waking hours. I also understood that even my most dreadful past mistakes were never meant to be sinister – like all of us, I was just doing the best I could at the time, and we are all imperfect beings that simply make bad choices now and again. Hindsight is 20/20 and obviously if we had all the puzzle pieces at all given times, we would have a lot less screw ups. Pretty simple stuff, but these were all new revelations to me.

I also realized that most of the things that still caused me anguish were completely meaningless now, and even the ones that weren’t…well, certainly nothing productive could be done about them this late in the game, so it was pointless to continue stressing about it. And I couldn’t deny that I had learned something with every misstep, because I certainly had. I had become stronger, wiser, more observant, more compassionate, and entirely more mindful. Mistakes truly are the greatest teachers of all. But that wasn’t even what had been tripping me up. It was my handling of the aftermath that had been causing the problem. In fact, guilt-hording had completely taken the flavor out of life for me. It left me paralyzed with anxiety and kept me dwelling in the cesspool of the past. But never again. NEVER again.

This world is challenging enough as it is. We certainly don’t need to be pulling our own selves down any further into the sewer. We forget that there is a spectacular universe out there if we we would only allow ourselves to get around to noticing it, and focusing on all our negative stuff will never allow us to even catch a glimpse of it. When the people we love have mess ups, we hug them and uplift them. We remind them that tomorrow is a new day. We make them laugh and bring over a pizza and a bottle of wine. We help them forget and move on. But why don’t we do the same for ourselves? It’s time to start spreading that forgiveness around.

Decide today that this insanity will end. Look in the mirror and give yourself a big overdue kiss. Promise to yourself that you are going to start taking care of YOU. The past is the past and most of it is actually probably pretty great, even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. The bad stuff, though…it’s time to throw it in the dumpster for good. You’ve carried those boulders long enough. Set yourself free! Breathe out the pain of your yesterday and breathe in the simplicity of the present moment. It’s right here waiting for you, and it’s unbelievably awesome. And YOU, my friend, are awesome too. Be the best friend to yourself that you’ve always wanted to have. Spoil yourself, adore yourself, get to know yourself, AND FORGIVE YOURSELF. Seriously. F-O-R-G-I-V-E YOURSELF! The world seems like an entirely new place when you look at it without the grimy filter of guilt. There is hope and beauty around every single corner. But don’t take MY word for it. Go out take a peek for yourself.


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