Guilt… Is it Real or Imagined?

Webster’s definition of guilt has something to do with a person committing an offense, a crime, or a wrong-doing of some sort.  Next to that is a statement of “whether real or imagined”.  I find that odd.

When I reflect on times I have felt guilty about something, I was… well, guilty of doing something I probably shouldn’t have… like sneaking out of the house in high school, getting really drunk, and throwing up all over the bathroom we shared as a family.  I know, not the nicest visual, but I did feel really bad about it.  In more ways than one. That was “true guilt” that I owned.

On the flip side, there have been a lot of times when other people have imposed this feeling of guilt on me, based on what they thought I should have done and didn’t, or a decision I made about my life that they didn’t necessarily agree with.  The important difference in these cases is that I was making the choice to move my life forward, to get more out of this beautiful Universe and give more back in return because I had the freedom to choose.  The changes I was making were hard on the people around me.  Some welcomed it with open arms while others were resentful.

I left home at 17 to go to college.  Along with that came the guilt trip of “you’re abandoning your family”… followed by 25 years of “why don’t we ever see you at Christmas?”.  Perhaps because when I do see you, you try to lay the guilt trip on me.  Well, guess what… I decided 15 years ago (yes it took me 10 years to figure it out) that I don’t own that kind of guilt.  I won’t take it into my space and allow it to affect my life in a negative manner. My family knows where I live and if they want to see me or talk to me because they feel my trips to see them aren’t as frequent as they like… the airplanes fly in both directions… and the phone goes both ways.  I would love to have the company.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love my family, because I do.  I just can’t be with them all the time.  It’s not possible, and I don’t think it’s healthy for me.  Small doses are good for all of us.

When I was in high school, I interviewed a County Court Judge for a school writing project.  I asked him what his most difficult decision he had made regarding a case.  He told me a story about a boy who defended his mother who was being beaten by his father.  I won’t tell you the final outcome of that story, but it was a choice that boy had to live with the rest of his life.  The judge did not sentence him to the full extent, but rather gave him the opportunity to start over.  I am certain that boy felt enough guilt about his actions for a lifetime, but I am also certain that seeing his mother alive without bruises and broken bones helped him cope with his guilt.

Guilt comes in many sizes and shapes.  Sometimes it’s warranted, and other times it’s not.  Knowing the difference between the two is important to finding personal balance.  We should not beat ourselves up over situations that are part of the flow of the Universe.  People grow, others don’t grow as fast.  Let’s not allow those left behind to impart their guilt on those of us who are moving forward. We are all responsible for the choices we make, and not everyone is traveling at the same speed down the path of life.  And, that is ok.

Let’s try and be a little kinder to ourselves and not “own” all the guilt people try and throw at us… rather only the bits that we are truly responsible for… the “real offenses” not those thrown upon us because we choose to move forward and grow in a direction that is different than someone else had planned for us in their view of the World.

Love and Light,

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