What’s over is over. Dead. Gone. Past. Guilt has no place in Life.
The most enduring image of the ICC World Cup T20 Final between England and West Indies of Sunday night at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, is of England bowler Ben Stokes sinking to his haunches, his head buried in his hands. He sank that way, not once, but three times in four balls. Windies’ Carlos Brathwaite had just smashed him for four sixes in a row and had snatched away the T20 World Cup from England with two balls to spare!
When Stokes lifted his head from his hands, after the winning sixer was hit, he was looking devastated. He was reduced to a bundle of guilt and grief. England captain Eoin Morgan did what every great leader does – he rushed to his man’s side and encouraged him to move on. Even so, the way Stokes was feeling – and looking – just then, I thought he would be clinging on to his guilt for way too long. But in about an hour, I saw his Tweet which showed that he was indeed ready and willing to let go and keep walking.
And from my own experience let me assure you, that’s the only way to deal with guilt. We must understand that intent, integrity and hardwork do not necessarily produce proportionate results. Outcomes, just like Life itself has, have a mind of their own. Which is why the Bhagavad Gita encourages us to focus on the effort and not on the result. Sunday night belonged to Brathwaite, to Darren Sammy’s anger with the West Indies cricket system, to the Caribbean people. So the World Cup went to them, virtually at the nth second. But that doesn’t mean Stokes was bad or that he’s a loser. It was just not meant to be his night. This is the only attitude which can help us face and deal with this inscrutable Life.
Guilt and grief, over what has happened and what you contributed to what has happened, are wasted emotions. When guilt arises, like it did in Stokes, it will push you down. But you must bounce back. And that’s where detachment with outcomes helps. I have learnt to deal with guilt by asking myself the following questions: did I do my best in the given situation and did I act with integrity of purpose and in everyone’s interest (to whoever I am responsible for)? If I answer ‘yes’ to both questions, I simply move on. Unmindful of the outcome of my actions. Of course, whether it turns out that I have put in my best or that I must work better and harder, there is always a learning with each new experience. So, as I move on, I keep internalizing the learning – and oftentimes, I keep unlearning too.
All of us have this ability to bounce back from a debilitating situation. All it takes is to say no to guilt and grief, and to move on!