Guilt: Our Painful Friend

Guilt: Our Painful Friend

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  1. I heard a supposed expert in psychology recently say that guilt is a useless emotion, a waste of time and that there is something wrong with a person if they experience it.

    Hogwash. Personally, I believe that fools and sociopaths would actually believe such a thing for the most part. Considering that it’s difficult for fools to obtain PhD degrees in anything less than a lifetime, I’m guessing that the particular shrink in question is a closet sociopath and probably more dangerous than any person he has ever treated.

    Intellectuals (and those who consider themselves as such) may tell you that guilt is a waste of time and that you should release yourself from it. Such people may not necessarily be sociopaths, but they are guided by idealism taught to them by other so-called intellectuals, and in all likelihood have not taken the time to look within themselves for things about which they should feel guilty; or they have and were so frightened by what they saw that they refuse to admit to it.

    I should clarify that I am speaking about self-imposed guilt only. Those who purposely pile guilt onto others—especially the innocent—are themselves the guilty party; the victims of such abuse rarely deserve it. Unfortunately, such people infrequently acknowledge or accept their own guilt, which is why they pile it onto others in the first place. I know a thing or two about this from personal experience too, I am ashamed to admit. The only form of guilt this article applies to is that which we recognize within ourselves and for which we—usually grudgingly—take responsibility.

    We feel guilt only when we come to realize that a past action was terribly wrong. Some people never admit to their failures, so they probably don’t have much guilt in their lives. Guilt is a quality only shared by at least occasionally introspective folks which, I believe, makes up the major part of the world’s population.

    Did you read about the pharmaceutical company working on a pill that will alleviate feelings of guilt? Did Hitler have any children? Because if he did, they probably own that company.

    How can we ever learn from our own mistakes without guilt? How can anyone ever hope to better himself as a human being without guilt? You can’t. Without guilt, we can never know—or at least appreciate—our faults.

    Guilt can be taken too far, of course, but then again so can anything, even bacon. (Say it ain’t so, Tom!)

    I will cite one of the sources of my own guilt as an example. Until I met my wonderful wife, I treated my little sister like crap, and for no reason. She was smart, kind, considerate, compassionate—and I treated her as if she were the reincarnation of Stalin. Why? I still can’t explain it. I never hated her or even disliked her; if someone else threatened her, I would have stomped all over that person… and then probably would have kicked my sister and called her terrible names.

    Throughout all of those years, I felt as if my brother and other sisters (there were six of us siblings originally) always ganged up against me; it seemed to me that they all sided with my younger sister. And they did… sort of. They weren’t against me; they were for protecting the innocent. It was all too obvious to them that my resentment of my little sister was groundless. It was not until I convinced my wife to marry me that I suddenly came to realize just how badly I had treated my sister and for how long. She never deserved the 35 years of physical, verbal and emotional abuse that I doled out on her.

    That was 13 years ago, and the guilt remains fresh within me, mostly because I nurture it. It is my self-imposed punishment for the decades of mistreatment my sister endured at my hand. I deserve this pain, and will deserve it for the rest of my life. There is no way that I can pay my sister back for all the trouble that I caused her, and even if there was, she wouldn’t’t accept it because she’s a better person than I am.

    What is most amazing (well, you wouldn’t’t think so if you knew my sister) is that she has never held any grudge against me and is now one of the best friends I have in the world. (It would be unfair to say that she’s a favorite sibling; if you knew my other siblings, you’d know why.) She never brings up the abuse she suffered at my hand unless jokingly (we’re all pretty good at laughing at our own inanity), and she has never tried to make me feel guilty. I did that all on my own… or did I? Does God cause feelings of guilt within us? Personally, I don’t think so. But He may allow us the introspection to become aware of our more glaring faults, and then it’s up to us to feel guilt, or not.

    So welcome self-imposed guilt when it comes. You don’t feel it for no reason at all; and if you acknowledge and accept the guilt, in all likelihood you will know the source of that guilt and will take immediate steps to reverse your own bad behavior. And if you realize that you’ve been very bad, as I have, hold on to that guilt, because it will be your assurance against ever repeating the same terrible mistake. Just because you have guilt in your life doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. I am one of the happiest people I know most of the time; yet I will never release myself from my own guilt because I know that I not only deserve it, but can also grow from it if I allow myself.

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