I have been wandering this life for 50 years now and the lessons learned in that time are many and they range from the frivolous to the life altering with everything else in between. A large percentage of lessons that would have served so much better had they come in my youth, but sadly the best lesson life brings us are the ones that come thru experience and in a time in your life when you are often least served by them.
One such lesson is the lesson of guilt, and not the kind of guilt one feels after cheating on a test or declaring 3 donuts when you have 4 in the bag at the checkout. The guilt I speak of is the guilt that rocks you to the core, the guilt from actions that you never once considered that would deeply hurt others, or actions born out of hurts that left you cold to the pain you were causing, a guilt derived from obtuse actions that were the result of self absorbed purpose.
Even in situations where you are acting out of hurt, it is still worth the feeling of guilt when you have betrayed yourself in your actions. Often justified and often not, you betray yourself first and foremost with the actions that bring you sincere and gut wrenching guilt and the person you hurt becomes secondary when you take into account your most personal betrayal which is the betrayal of your own ethics, standards and moral compass.
When the guilt is the guilt of self betrayal it can then become an honest guilt, in fact other guilts are likely not true guilt but rather fear. Fear of getting caught, fear of losing someone or something, or fear of having to deal with the repercussions that the act will eventually cause. Until it is a self induced betrayal of your own morals, ethics, or honor it is just bad behavior whether it affects those around you or not.
“Guilt” that is simply bad behavior is easily let go once you have moved past the point of dealing with the results of you actions and rarely if ever stays with you more than the echo of the actions you took to cause this discomfort in the first place, exist.
Guilt that is based on the betrayal of yourself is something that should never leave you. It should eat at you, it should cause regret, it should come at a price that is beyond you ability to pay for. This guilt has a purpose, it should be very hard to face, you should carry it with struggle, but above all it should have the feeling of finality to it.
You can avail yourself of the purpose or you can let it lie and become wasted pain … that is all you can do with it once the facts prove out that guilt is the answer to your actions. The value of guilt is simple, it is a tool that can make you a better man. It teaches an incredibly clear cut lesson on what NOT to ever do again.
Because it is always about self betrayal, this lesson can be learned regardless of even the offended person’s reaction at your attempts of repairing the damage that the guilt causing actions occurred. Reconciling guilt with actions is not about making people feel better, the damage you caused is already done, it is in fact about never causing it again to another. Their reaction at your attempts to fix the chasm that is the image of your guilt is so far from relevant and so very often nothing more than hurt you are only able to pile onto that you now carry from the guilt. To have expectations of this guilt being alleviated by appreciation for your internal pain is at best foolish on your part. This is yours to own they will not help you thru it and they certainly have no interest in it, so unless you wish to follow a path of self flagellation, have no wants, desires, or expectations of forgiveness or even of acknowledgement for your efforts or personal pain over the matter.
The value of guilt is to drive you forward to yet another precipice where a choice needs be made, and thru the pain from your past to make the right choice, rather than the choice that feels good by feeding into anger, hurt or not taking the time to consider the consequences of your actions.
Life is meant to be lived in a thoughtful manner, not one acted on reaction but rather lived proactively and with the lessons learned, walked in a line straight with purpose and forged in consideration for the actions you take.
Do not shun guilt, but rather embrace it. We all will fail ourselves more times than a person cares to count so to shun guilt and push the pain away in forced ignorance steals from your life the incredible opportunity to walk that line with clarity of purpose.