Your feelings of guilt are threatening to drown you. How could I - you ask yourself – have ever done such a thing?
- You were unfaithful
- You lied to your best friend
- You told your mother (because you wanted to have lunch with the cute new lawyer you met at the gym) that you couldn’t take her to the dentist until next week, so she drove herself, had an accident, and now she’s in bed with a broken leg
- You arrived late for your kid’s graduation ceremony.
- You cheated on an exam.
- You stole some money from your dad’s wallet
- You screamed at your brother for walking in on you while you were changing
- You embezzled your firm’s money
- You refused to speak to your father for two weeks because of his hard-ass behavior
- You convinced your sister to lend you her car – against her better judgement – and now you crashed it
- You fell off the wagon and had a drink again
- You gossiped about someone, without even knowing whether the gossip was true, and now a lot of people are talking about it, and have judged that person based on your gossip
- You forgot your wedding anniversary
And now you feel guilty. So, so guilty.
You Are Meant to Feel Guilty
And of course, you believe that this feeling of guilt is meant to be. That by feeling so awful about what you did, you are atoning. It’s kind of what you were taught … maybe your parents, maybe church, maybe just society in general. This is the price you pay for having done something you should not have done.
And maybe, if you grovel enough, or if you are contrite enough, somehow, someone will forgive you. But generally, even when you are forgiven, sometimes precisely because you’ve been forgiven, you continue to feel guilty. After all, you seem to believe, by continuing to show your guilt, you continue to show the world that you know that what you did was wrong. It’s atonement. If you discard the guilt too quickly, you believe, others may think you are not truly sorry.
But what if you are feeling guilty about something that happened a long time ago, and the person is dead? Who will forgive you then? Does that mean you need to feel guilty about that event for the rest of your life? Or what about if you are truly contrite but the other person refuses to forgive you? What now?
Does Your Guilt Have a Purpose?
So let’s examine it. Is guilt useful? I would say it is, although only long enough for you to recognize that whatever it was you did was wrong, that it should not be repeated, and that therefore you take the conscious decision to attempt to make amends, or apologize, or both, and then decide – very consciously and very deliberately - not to ever do that particular thing again. Period. The guilt had one main purpose: to teach you the lesson not to repeat that particular action ever again. No more, no less.
Beyond that, in my opinion, as long as you have taken the lesson on board - guilt is utterly and absolutely useless.
Guilt Can Be Self-Serving
If you remain guilty beyond the above described circumstances, you are, in fact, self-serving. You serve the part of yourself that needs to feel bad in order to feel better. As long as you remain guilty about something, you can say to yourself that you are making amends by feeling awful about what you did. But does this serve the other party? The person against whom you committed this act? Of what good is it for them that you feel guilty? What if they have died? They can’t benefit from your guilt. Or perhaps they no longer speak to you. Again, they can’t benefit from what they don’t know is happening. Or perhaps they do know about your guilt, and have said you can move on, that it is no longer an issue, but you insist on feeling guilty. Does it do them any good? There might be one instance where the other may benefit from your guilt, and that is a person who continues to bear you a grudge, and relishes seeing you throw figurative ashes on your head. But such a person needs to look at themselves for a whole other set of reasons, and ask how they are benefiting by having such an attitude, and that topic is not within the scope of this article.
So, back to the question: is there anything useful about guilt, beyond the recognition that you have done something wrong, that you need to make amends, and that you need to learn a lesson from this moment of your life and decide not to do such a thing again?
The Benefits of Guilt
Here’s what would be of benefit, not only to the injured party, if you still have contact with them, but also to yourself, and most particularly, to all those with whom you come in contact from now on. If, on recognizing that what you did is not something you ever want to repeat again, and hence have learned an important lesson that will serve you well for the rest of your life, you will have changed a part of your inner psychological, emotional, and spiritual make-up. You will have become, to some degree, a different person, with a higher set of values, a set of values that takes you to another level. As you continue in such a line, your life can – should you so desire – continue to grow and expand in such a way that you are in a continual quest for self-improvement.
So in that sense guilt can be highly useful and positive. But only because it leads you in that direction of growth, and not because you remain mired within the actual feeling of guilt.
For more about being aware of yourself (and your guilt) in order to be able to remain in the present and how that will enhance your life and promote joy, greater inner peace and freedom, have a look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self (paperback or Kindle).
To download the first chapter, click here
To see the Table of Contents click here
Reviews From the Back Cover:
A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom & joy but illuminates the way to true human potential. Dr. Kortsch is a spiritual master for our time. Paul Rademacher, Executive Director, The Monroe Institute; author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe
"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, Director, Center for Sacred Theatre, Ashland, Oregon; author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre
"The instruction manual on rewiring the soul. An in-depth guide on life, love, spiritual evolution & our integration within the universe." Michael Habernig & April Hannah; Producers: The Path- The Afterlife & The Path 11 Documentaries
"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world & practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd; Founder Trans4mind.com; author: Daring To Be Yourself
"The human being's directory to the soul. A breakthrough for those seeking practical assistance, those of a more mystical bent & every soul awaiting discovery." Toni Petrinovich, Ph.D.; author: The Call: Awakening the Angelic Human
My new book The Tao of Spiritual Partnership is now also available in print and Kindle formats.
To download the first chapter, click here
To see the Table of Contents click here
From the Description on Amazon: More exciting than any other kind of relationship you have ever known, spiritual partnership is a path, a Tao, available to you so that you may transform your life. Spiritual partnership becomes background music to daily life allowing you to enhance the process of your growth and evolution.
This ground-breaking book addresses:
• relationship patterns that hold you back from a truly fulfilled life
• the strong connection between sexuality and spiritual partnership
• communication leading to true connection & lasting transformation of your relationship
It is precisely at the problematic crossroads so often encountered in relationships that we are offered the opportunity to create a new foundation based on mutual complementarity rather than need; a free relationship between two people who want to be together, rather than two people who need to be together. Needing another, we are told, is the measure of love, but for a fully conscious individual nothing could be further from the truth. And therein lies part of the secret and healing power of spiritual partnerships.
Praise for The Tao of Spiritual Partnership
“All humans seek the illusive touch of another's Soul, which opens us to the sense of belonging to something bigger than the self. Dr. Kortsch has given us the true "tao" of relationship in this brilliant exploration of emotional tapestry. We will be grateful for this illumination of spiritual partnership for generations to come."
Chris Griscom: Spiritual Leader, Author
“Eloquently and comprehensive, showing how your primary love relationship may be a sacred vessel that transports you and your partner to a place of mutual healing and expansion.”
Robert Schwartz: Author of Your Soul’s Gift: The Healing Power of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born
"The Tao of Spiritual Partnership is a unique blend of wit and wisdom; Dr. Kortsch encourages us to take responsibility for our relationships, while recognizing and seizing the opportunities for our own personal spiritual growth."
William Buhlman, Author of Adventures Beyond the Body
Note: If you are wondering why this blog is now only appearing on alternate days (excluding Sat/Sun), it is because I also post on my other blog on the others days. That other blog is The Tao of Spiritual Partnership, so named for my new book. Click here to visit the blog and/or to sign up for the feed.