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What guilt can teach us

Being filled with guilt is like continuing to pay rent on a place you no longer live.

photo: snarkerati.com

Guilt can do to you what Hansel and Gretel did to the Gingerbread house.  Little by little, guilt picks away at our core, leaving us defensive and emotionally unavailable.

Did you know you can use guilt as a force for positive change?

It’s too late you say?   The person wronged has long since left – moved, you’re too afraid or .. worse yet .. they’ve passed away?

Even if you’re only just now admitting to a mistake from your past, it is never too late to acknowledge it.  Why?  Because the other people still in your life benefit when you attempt to right your wrongs.  And, surprisingly, so does someone else  – you.

Why? Because past mistakes that are never acknowledged ….  tag along for the ride like a naughty child, undermining the integrity of our current relationships, whispering destructive thoughts into our ears and delighting when bad behavior rises to the surface.

Whenever I find myself feeling guilty… I take a moment and examine it.  The funny thing is, it always ends up being one of two scenarios: 1) I’m actually feeling obligated to what I think someone else wants from me (whether they do or not) OR  2) I did something to feel guilty for.   Maybe I was short, impatient or disrespectful. I’ve learned that the only way I can assuage true guilt is to face it – to stare it down, own up to it – and attempt to fix the damages.

We can stop the cycle.

We can use guilt as our positive force for change.

How?

Repeat after me: “I was wrong.”  

For most of us, this is hard to do because admitting our shortcomings exposes our vulnerabilities.  It’s not ingrained behavior and it goes against everything that may have been modeled for us.  But honestly? Admitting when we’re wrong has as much good in it for us as it does for others.

You might be surprised how much these 3 little words resonate. I was.

There are 3 other important words that are often said prematurely or just simply over used .. to the point that they lose their impact. These are the real deal.  These 3 words will grow you up.

Admitting our mistakes. Correcting the wrongs.  Accepting ourselves and others.  Becoming the person we’d actually want to spend time with.

What comes next?

No more blank checks to absent landlords.

 # # #


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Categories: Determination, Forgiveness, Grief, Life Lessons, Love, Opinion, Personal, Rants, Relationships, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “What guilt can teach us

  1. How true! True words of wisdom….

    • Thank you, Dianna. Just another “life lesson.” My experience? Most are more comfortable saying “I love you” than “I was wrong.” Thanks for weighing in, MJ

  2. Oh my…you are speaking to me. Caught…thanks for slapping my hand. Last week I went to my nephew’s graduation party cranky… I had hoped Rufus’s divine biscotti would take the place of my company but cranky came with me to the party. I was with family and they loved me through it. Rarely do I go there but one phone conversation did me in. I won’t do it again…for a while.

    • Well .. don’t be too hard on yourself; at least you recognized it. Do you know many people I know who can’t (( and even if they can .. won’t do anything about it?)). Cheers! MJ

  3. I like and appreciate your life reminders. ~ Lenore

  4. Very strong MJ. I wish I had your insight.

    • Thank you but I am sure you do have it … I think we all do. For me, I have just learned to listen to it .. it’s that little nagging voice that brings me back to a certain point and makes me look at it again and again. Thank you for weighing in!! MJ

  5. Really great post. I so agree with you. Lately I’ve been thinking of the phrase, “And the truth shall set you free.” It reminds me of your post and admitting “I was wrong.” Both have the ability to transform and free a person from guilt. Thanks for a great post.

    • Thank you, Leah. I very much agree and am always telling our boys that quote, “the truth shall set you free.” The truth always comes out .. one way or another … we might not be there to witness it but it always .. always .. comes out. Please come back again soon!! MJ

  6. You’re on a roll! I love all of these posts. Maybe we’re all in sync. I saw some of the other comments about the saying, “the truth shall set you free.” I’ve found myself thinking that several times recently. It feels so good to be honest, to have integrity with a situation, to know that you’ve righted the wrongs. We’ve had some family issues in the past few months that have made me think a lot about these things. I’ve learned to ask the question, “how does this help?” before I act or speak, and I’ve learned (at the ripe age of 50!) that it’s better to face something head on than try to ignore it and hope it goes away. Very liberating! But also, acting out of love instead of guilt is very empowering. Couldn’t feel better!
    Thanks for your inspiring words!

    And by the way, I would love to have coffee with you sometime, somewhere. I’m always happy to meet kindred spirits!

    Sheila

    • Amen! I understand exactly what you’re saying, Sheila. As someone who’s always jumped in with a comment and sometimes wasn’t listening because I was thinking of my response, I’m learning to be more in that moment and really be there for the other person. I’m also learning to get out of my own way and not be so darned hard on myself. Doesn’t mean I’m not accountable – actually – to the contrary – but I’m giving myself some room, maybe 1/2 as much as I give to everyone else. It’s creating more contentment in my life.

      I really love your thought to ask yourself “how does this help?” before you speak up … very powerful… because sometimes we are helping and others it’s just commentary. Like 24 hour news, we … can… shut … it .. off!

      Hugs to you my virtual coffee friend in Alaska .. from yours in Michigan 🙂 Cheers! MJ

  7. My dad thinks he’s never wrong…he’s recently started admitting that he occasionally makes mistakes. However, his version of “I was wrong” has an extra part: “as you usually are.” Probably one of the reasons my mom divorced him after 25 years!

    Wendy

    • ooh Ouch. He sounds challenging to be around Wendy!! But … at least he’s starting to admit mistakes. I know many who never do and are always right, always, even when they’re wrong. I just don’t “go there’ with them.

      – MJ

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