Guilt is a most unpleasant feeling. We really want to get rid of it — by not having done whatever it is we regret. But we cannot change the past. We can reconsider the past, ensuring that we have an accurate view of exactly what it is we regret: unnecessary guilt can be caused by blaming ourselves unfairly. Often though, we genuinely did do something which now we wholehearted wish we had not done.
I mentioned before the power of regret, realignment, resolve and repair, as a positive response to guilt feelings. Using this sequence to unearth and act upon the positive message in our regret can end the repeating blame which is what guilt is. Or can go a long way towards that. Now I want to reflect upon the flip side of guilt.
two sides of the coin
What feels bad about having done something regrettable is that this action now appears to be written into the story of who we are. We are a person who can do that act – and did do it. And we don’t like the feeling of that conclusion. But we cannot change the facts. Consider this though – what kind of person would we be if we had done such a thing… and did not feel any guilt over it? That is what tells us what kind of person we truly are. That is who we recognise we are now, someone unable to avoid feeling bad for our action.
Our continuing guilt tells us that we need to recognise our underlying goodness, our positive virtuous nature, which is insulted by acts we now see as mistaken — and feels hurt every time we even think of our involvement in such a mistake. What’s more, that is the person we truly wish to be – we are much clearer now. We have learned — the hard way — from that mistake.
So we should do all we can to align ourselves with that basic nature of goodness, to prove to ourselves that we live according to our strongest wish for ourselves. Actions speak louder than thoughts, they can show us who we are. We can see how it feels to act out our best side — after all, our mistake must have come from lack of clarity about this side of us, an insufficiently strong habit of living as that person.
Only then will it be clear to us how the regretted act can now be seen as a diversion from our true path, one which showed us who we are. Aligning with our true nature like this is something to celebrate! Perhaps also we might reflect upon other facets of who we most deeply want to live as — that is a powerful path.