Updated: Aug 25
I answered the door to a draft of cold air and stifled a moan. He was dark, ugly and far too big.
Guilt moved to come in, but I blocked him.
“What is it this time?” I asked, hearing the fear in my voice.
He just stared. Through me.
A nervous silence stretched, until I blurted, “It is my assistant, isn’t it. I yelled at her, and now I am supposed to feel guilty. But, uh, I can't; I uh don't have any more room.”
In a vaguely threatening voice, Guilt asked, “No room?”
I panicked and quickly added, “I, I'm so overloaded; there is just no more room!”
He gave up trying to come in and leaned against the doorframe, pretending not to care.
“So you are hanging on to the old guilt,” he said. “Why?”
“Hanging on?” I asked.
He looked looked at me as if I were lacking and said, “Guilt is just a feeling that says, ‘You missed the target.’ When you yelled at your assistant, you missed your target of treating people considerately.”
“Yes, yes,” I said impatiently. “What did you mean by hanging on?”
He shook his head and sighed.
“After you make yourself feel badly enough, long enough, you have paid for missing the target.”
He looked at me like I was stupid and added, “Once you have paid, you are supposed to let it go.”
My eyes dropped to the floor. Silence surrounded us.
Finally, I whispered what had never been said, “After all this time, I still feel awful about hurting my sister. And she died.”
I looked up with tears in my eyes and pleaded, “How much time is enough?”
Guilt shrugged and said, “How should I know? My job is to help you with the next load; but, I have to say, you have never needed much help.”
Suddenly angry, I yelled, “Well I have too much now! I just can’t take anymore!”
Guilt leaned over me with his towering bulk. I cringed.
His voice rumbled, “Like it or not, you already feel guilty for yelling at your assistant.”
I slowly moved back.
He straightened, and with a sarcastic edge to his voice said, “Besides, you are the one in control. You can change your behavior and hit the target, or you can change the target.”
I frowned and began a question, but he shook his head and asked, “How do you feel when you overeat?”
I fumbled to switch topics and said, “Bad. I feel guilty.”
“But you are not overweight.”
“My mom told us that eating too much is hard on the digestive system.”
Guilt laughed and said, “So your mom set the target. When you overeat is it really too much?”
Thoughtfully, I said, “No, probably not; but wait. Do you mean that I can reset the target and make it okay to eat more?”
With some excitement, I added, “Or I can decide not to have a target at all!”
Guilt turned to leave.
“Wait!” I shouted. “Deciding targets is about stopping new guilt. How do I get rid of the old?”
He stopped, looked back and with an unexpected kindness said, “You can, of course, forgive yourself for being hard on your sister. You were children; you were doing the best you could; and she died from a heart operation, not from anything you did.”
As I turned back into the warmth of the room, as tears flooded my eyes. I softly whispered, “Forgive myself?”
Note – Self-forgiveness is always more effective with a gentle attitude, easy breathing and a relaxed body. And, it takes persistence to completely release the pain.
That was Fiction. This is Reality
Another way to stop new guilt is to know when we are rationalizing, like the time I wanted to get together with a married woman.
Here I am, waiting in my car, in front of her house. I have been here awhile, thinking about how easily, and often, I fool myself.
My daughter once told me that anything can be rationalized.
I wanted to object, but there have been times I have rationalized fudging my taxes, using pirated software, skipping some of my work at work and spending more money than I could afford; and that is the short list.
But am I rationalizing over this woman? I am divorced, and she is separated; she is more than okay with us having sex (because her husband did it first, with her best friend); and, she had been thinking about divorcing him anyway.
Also, we are both adults, and it would be wonderfully consensual.
Am I rationalizing? Why do I feel so uncertain? YES, I do have a basic sense of right and wrong, but I have rationalized around it so many times.
How then can I separate rationalizing from reality?
Her car turned into the driveway; she was early.
Silently, she took my hand and led me to the couch. She hesitated and then sat next to me.
The silence stretched.
I cleared my throat to ask, but she abruptly said, “I’m not sure we should do this. I mean, I want to, but…” Her voice trailed off.
In that moment, I realized how I could always know if I was fooling myself.
I cleared my throat again and proceeded to list the rationalizations I had been telling myself.
As I reached the end, she began to object, but I stopped her with, “On the other hand, you are not completely over him. In fact, you might end up staying together; and any relationship we have would only muddle your situation.”
I paused and then added, “But mostly, even though you are separated, I would feel uncomfortable being with a married woman.”
She looked relieved, as I felt the loss.
But on the way home, I marveled at the solution. Separating reality from rationalizing is easy, because a reality that feels right never needs explaining, never needs reasons. If I am telling myself it is okay to do something, I can be certain it is not.
Also, the amount rationalizing always equals the amount of wrong. The bigger the offense, the more rationalizing I need to stifle the feelings of guilt (before and after).
Judging by the amount of rationalizing I was doing over her, I would have felt a heavy load and would have had to repeatedly tell myself why it was okay.
Although I felt the loss of her (and the fun we could have had), I liked feeling this stronger sense of self-esteem and inner strength. I also like not feeling the guilt.
* But sadly, that was a story about what I wish I had done.
It Never Works
Criticizing ourselves for mistakes only causes us more pain; so, why do we do it? I think it is because of a belief that if we are hard enough on ourselves, we won't do it again. But has that ever worked?
Self-empathy and gentle forgiveness do change our behavior over time. And so does this:
All She Ever Wanted Was...
Her: She was saying, “If only I could find the right guy, I would give myself to him, and—
I stopped her and asked, “Give your SELF?”
Her eyes widened as she realized what she had said and what she had been doing.
Him: Free Insights
His business was deep in the red, and he was now desperate.
I asked him, “If there was one person on the planet holding you back, who would it be?”
He immediately said, “My Mother.”
She was giving him money to keep his business afloat.
She had also given him the down payment for his house and had recently taken over the payments.
His insight: "I'm 30 years old and still (like a child) dependent on my mother!"
Both Him & Her: The power of a deep insight is that it cannot be unseen; it will tend to keep prodding, motivating and pushing Him and Her into a permanent change (no resolutions needed).
And That Power is Now Yours:
Either one of these 2 simple techniques can bring you a life-changing insight, one that leads to a permanent change.
Both are complete (nothing held back)
And sent directly to your inbox:
How Many ?
How many people, no matter what they try, spend their lives not losing Weight, or in unfulfilling Relationships (or none), or with Money problems or a Stalled career?
But one, eye-widening moment can begin leaving that pain behind
* Imagine seeing the present and past in an instant and knowing that it is no longer you
* Imagine taking control over that part of your life
* And imagine the relief of knowing that you are finally moving on, once and for all.
Click this link and get your free techniques now:
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For more on the topic of guilt and how to forgive yourself, 2 links:
The very foundation of personal improvement is self-care/self-love. At this link: