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Guilt And How It Sidetracks Forgiveness

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

Did you ever think about how guilt sidetracks you and keeps you from forgiving yourself?  Many people have difficulty forgiving themselves if they feel guilty about something.  This can be a tremendous burden to bear and it prevents many people from letting go and moving on.  Many people feel that in order to be forgiven that the slate must be wiped clean and the alleged transaction forgotten.  If they can’t forgive themselves and forget, why should anybody else forgive them?

For some people to admit that they might have done something wrong destroys their self-esteem and makes them feel valueless.  They are their own worst critics and to say that they did something wrong can be self-destructive.  Having done a lot of psychotherapy in my life and having been in psychotherapy, the things that are the hardest to admit are the things that we can’t stop feeling guilty about.  Often therapy reaches a stumbling block when one of these issues needs to be brought up.

Sometimes people admit that they secretly are their own worst critics.  Then it follows that if they beat themselves up about something, that other people should tell them that what they did was not so bad after all.  When this isn’t true, therapy often can’t move forwards.  The pain of the self-remorse is so great that they feel that no one would ask them to take the next step forward and say that what they did, thought, or said was egregious.  They think how can anybody love me if I did that if I can’t forgive and love myself?

What is worst is that sometimes in order unconsciously to prove that what they did was not that bad, they continue to do it.  Thereby burying themselves deeper and deeper in the morass of guilt and self-blame.  Take sexual harassment for example, the person involved can’t conceive of themself as a careless cad so they don’t change their behavior.  It was just a joke or something that all girls ask for by their behavior or form of dress.  They don’t realize that the buck stops with themselves no matter who the other person is or what the other person does.  Anyway it is just their perception of the other person that they are responding to and it may actually be schewed.

There is no one here on earth (except Christ, who is here only in spirit, but not in the flesh like the rest of us) who is blameless and self-sacrificing.  Mother Teresa admitted to faults and she was always working on them.  I am sure Pope Francis would say something much the same.

The key to changing this behavior is forgiving yourself and once this is done the repetition compulsion loses it’s steam.   This also makes it easier to forgive others when you realize that in some ways you are no different from them.  In Christianity, God offers forgiveness for people’s sins but often people don’t accept it because that would involve admitting that they really did something wrong.  Forgiveness is free; accepting it is personal choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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