Going on a Guilt Trip

September 14, 2008

Originally uploaded by operation_clash

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proven yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11.

On a scale of one to ten how much does guilt play into the kind of mood you’re in and what kind of decisions you make? My answer would depend on my mood. On a good day I would say four, but on a bad day I would say nine. Guilt is one emotion that pretty much takes control and has its way with me. Sometimes people try to make me feel guilty, but that does not bring me down; if I felt I’ve done something wrong I already feel guilty, if I do not agree with them I try to make them feel better but I won’t take the blame for it. Just recently I’ve realized that guilt is not naturally strong in my character, but years of training and meditating on all my faults, mistakes and weakness has lead to a life of guilt at the drop of a dime. It comes off as moody, mousy, and self centered. This was a bad week for me. It started with a phone call to my dad and a promise that I would keep in touch this week. My aunt was coming in from Texas; I haven’t seen her in over five years. She was staying for a week at my aunt’s house that lives in walking distance from me; I’ve never been over there even though she moved in a few months ago. In addition it was my dad’s b-day this week. So I had a lot of reasons to call and visit.

I currently live a pretty frugal lifestyle. I try my best to only spend money on the essentials because of my money situation. I decided that once again I would not get a present for my dad, instead I would call him and visit; I knew that he would be sincerely happy with that. When his birthday rolled around I became overwhelmed with guilt: I did not have a present, I was not going to be able to visit him that day, and my social anxiety made me hesitant to visit my aunt. I had every intention on calling him but the next thing I knew it was 11pm and I was now too late to call. The next day rolls around and now I can’t call because I did not even call him on his birthday. The next day rolls around and now I can’t call him because my Aunt is leaving tomorrow and I haven’t even talked to her yet. Earlier that week I’d made plans with my mom to go out to eat with Cinna, my sister-in-law. My mom called me and asked if we were still on and told me that my dad had brought my aunt by for a visit. I felt shame and sadness. My mom, former sister-in-law to my aunt, saw her before I did. I was sure that they had a great time of bonding and just before leaving talked about how terribly selfish and insensitive I am; having no love for my own flesh and blood. The next day my mom came to pick me up and took me over to my aunt’s house. Though I did feel some shame and wondered how mad they were at me, I was so grateful to see them and spend time with them.

Though I wish I could start this week over I am happy that it turned out the way it did.I’ve learned that guilt makes it hard for me to be courageous, honest and apologetic. It saps my energy and my confidence, but it is my reflex reaction when things get difficult for me. Guilt lies and tells me that if you feel guilty enough you can earn forgiveness, but instead it usually helps you to justify my bad habits by voicing lies like,” their better off without me, because I’m just not dependable”, and ”they should have know I wouldn’t come through, I never do”. Guilt that is not dealt with can bring on depression, idleness, insecurity, and death. However, I do believe that everything has a purpose. In the book, Lighten up Dance with you Dark Side, author Al Galves writes, “Guilt tells us what we don’t want to do. It keeps us from hurting other people. It is crucial in enabling us to become better people, more loving, kind, considerate, and helpful to others…People who don’t feel guilt are scary and dangerous. Author M. Scott Peck has gone so far as to define evil as ‘people who don’t own their imperfections”, pg 34. My description of guilt looks a lot different from Galves’ description. I believe that guilt that is exhausting or makes you sick is worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow helps you to empathize with others and makes you work hard to right your wrongs; I experience both quite a lot. My new strategy fro changing worldly to godly sorrow will be Galves suggestion on pg 41. When experiencing any negative emotion I will ask myself a few questions: What would I call this emotion, why did I start feeling this, how does this clarify my values and dislikes, what is the lesson or moral, and how can I use this energy for something constructive?

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.