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No Guilt. Do Better. (Because Guilt Is A Wasted Emotion)

There are a lot of things in my life about which I feel guilty.  Too many to share.  Too much shame.

Looking over my goals for 2015, I realized that I didn't achieve a single one.  Not a one.  I had successes in areas I hadn't planned for, though.  Successes that are intangible.  But the guilt was still plaguing me.

The funny thing is that I remember popping off (to borrow a turn of phrase from President Obama) pearls of wisdom in my 30's and 40's that are more relevant to my life now than they were then.  One of those pearls of wisdom was this:  Guilt is a wasted emotion.

I remember the late Joan Rivers saying that.  For whatever reason, it stuck with me, and I'd liberally share that little pearl of wisdom with friends and family who felt guilt about their past.

Guilt doesn't change the past.  Guilt doesn't undo what you did, nor does it do what you should have done.  It doesn't make the person you wronged feel any better.  An apology might, but guilt, in isolation, does not.

Whenever I had a friend tell me they felt guilty about something, I'd just pop off, "Guilt is a wasted emotion."  Just like that.  But I didn't give any guidance on what to do with that guilt or how to deal with it.  Even if it is a wasted emotion, you still feel it.

Now that I'm in my fifties, I have that guidance, and I'm giving it to myself in the form of yet another mantra I plan to apply going forward:  No guilt.  Do better.

Instead of emotionally flogging myself with guilt over what I've done or haven't done, I'm just going to try to do better.  I can't change the past.  I can only forge the future.

Plus, I've seen people use my guilt against me, not for the purposes of helping me do better, but to exploit it for their own gain or to hurt me.  As one of my relatives always says, "No bueno."

So, Gentle Readers, I invite you to join me in letting go of guilt as best you can and simply trying to do better.  At least you'll have the possibility of something to show for all that guilt.  Guilt by itself doesn't change anything, but action does.

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers.

Comments

Mel Hopkins said…
Yep, I let go the guilt sometime ago - but I have to admit the emotion is deeply ingrained in me.

Oddly enough, I was thinking about the legislator who said "I'm a gay american" because I started calling my daughter's dog a "canine-american". The joke led me to wonder what happened to the legislator who made that claim. I couldn't even remember his name only his profound statement.

Well, don't you know someone else did too and featured him in a documentary. The former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey is featured in the documentary "Fall to Grace".

McGreevey made his guilt public and was able to do better. Thank you for this blog post. It helped me to understand - that giving up guilt is just the beginning.

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