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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Can I Let Go of Guilt and Forgive Myself?



This is a perennial question for some and a poignant obstacle for others. Others still have no idea where to begin. Feelings of guilt and thoughts of condemnation can be lodged so solidly within both heart and mind. But there is always hope for healing!


Jim Diamond’s pleading voice resounds in the 1982 hit, I Won’t Let You Down. “PhD,” the band, was a one-hit-wonder. But never mind because the song gives us a good clue regarding our approaches to guilt and its opposite: the achievement of self-forgiveness.


Before we get started it must be said that processes for healing pertaining to guilt are usually gradual and they often involve a journey. This is because guilt feelings come from guilty thinking patterns quite tightly wired into us, and these come from our beliefs about ourselves — many, if not all, of which were founded in our childhoods.


Predisposed to Condemnation?


The sentiment of the PhD song is riveting. From our childhoods we’ll have a given propensity (or not) to come under others’ or our own condemnation. If we were treated as guilty for ‘transgressions’ when we were too young to actually know better it’ll most likely be an ongoing scourge for us. We’re dogged, perhaps, by a generational curse.


A parent who’s inflicted condemnation on one of their children has more than likely had their very own condemnation issues to deal with. It’s a vicious cycle.


If we can genuinely see ourselves predisposed to condemnation and otherwise given to feeling the sting of others’ wrath — like it crushes us — or we often people-please — there is good news ahead.


Two Issues – Acute and Chronic


In health terms we have two conditions, the acute and the chronic.


So far as guilt is concerned we have two types. Firstly, there is guilt for an action we did or didn’t do — the ‘acute’. We feel remorseful for what we should have done. The second type is about a more general rendition of guilt — the ‘chronic’; perhaps as a result of the way we treated someone over a longer period. This second type of forgiveness is obviously more pathological in nature. All that means is we’ve got more work to do.


But work is not something we should shirk.


This is because every effort we put in at this end of things will be blessed mightily, and we’ll be the direct beneficiary, with others close to us blessed indirectly also.


Getting to Know and Accept Ourselves


Our world is either full of problems or it’s full of opportunities — it depends on our outlook and perspective. It does us no good at all to only see problems.


If we choose to see life from the funnel of opportunity we can readily see that mollifying guilt is an exercise in the mastery of self-knowledge and acceptance.


Let us acknowledge this: you are a lovely person. You are a good person, despite your brokenness, which is a thing we all share. You are just as loved by God as the President, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, your pastor and Bill Gates is.


If it is our most earnest objective to achieve this sense of mastery of self-knowledge and acceptance, and we pray to God for it, we will surely achieve it, eventually. This is our way to getting rid of guilt once and for all.


Letting go, however it’s achieved, is our golden ticket to healing. As we accept ourselves, which includes copious portions of honesty, in the midst of all things we’ve done, including considering today as a ‘new slate’, we’re renewed for the moment.


Developing a habit of that is the fun part. The only way out is up. Let’s glory in that.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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