Whenever you feel guilty, examine your guilt, see it clearly, learn from it and set it down.
Recently someone we know wanted clarity on how to deal with guilt. He had blown up all his money trying to set up a business that had just not taken off. Over 11 years had passed by and there were still no signs of the business paying any dividends. He was neck-deep in debt. And he felt he had neglected the needs of his wife and children for far too long. His daughter had, in this time, graduated and taken up a job. And his son too was funding his higher education by doing part-time jobs. “I feel wretched. I have been so consumed by my own goals that I have been selfish. Worse, none of my family members is complaining. They continue to be supportive. That makes me miserable and feel more guilty,” lamented the man. “Is there a way to avoid feeling guilty,” he asked.
You can’t really avoid feeling guilty. But you can certainly avoid holding on to your guilt.
Guilt is an emotion, a natural response, that will arise in several contexts in Life. You make a mistake and wake up in realization. Or someone points out your mistake and you feel they are right. Or in hindsight, you feel you should not have done what you did. So, in all such situations, and others, you will feel guilty. You can’t escape that feeling. But you must also understand that guilt is a debilitating emotion – it will pin you down and hold you hostage. So, when you feel guilty, go to its root cause. If you agree that you have made a mistake, forgive yourself. Remember that in Life sometimes sh*t does happen and sometimes you end up making that sh*t happen! So, please, please forgive yourself! And seek forgiveness from the person who you have hurt or let down. Then set down your guilt.
Carrying your guilt around is like holding on to a glass of water with your arm outstretched. The longer you hold the glass this way, the more you will suffer. Instead set it down and learn to work around it. Don’t let your guilt weigh you down. Move on! But let your guilt be visible to you. Don’t ever try to tuck it away. As long as it is visible, you will not repeat the same mistake again. And as long as you don’t pick up your guilt, you will not suffer from it!