Overcoming Guilt with Compassion

Overcoming Guilt with Compassion 

I have heard guilt be called a useless emotion.  Yes and no.  Guilt itself is a signal that something is amiss, we have done something that has gone outside of our moral compass; or we have gone outside of our comfort zone.

Let’s look at it.  If we have done something that is outside our moral compass, whatever that may be, look at it.  Was it intentional? Was it done with good intentions then backfired?  Was it mindless, i.e. engaging in gossip or forgetting a birthday?

Pay attention to the icky, lingering feelings.  In this sense guilt serves in getting us back on track.  We can correct and move on.  Guilt lingers and becomes hurtful when we identify with the act and label ourselves and “bad”.  This is not so, we made a mistake, we are human.  What is needed now it Intelligent Regret.

Practice Intelligent Regret

  1. Power of Regret: simply recall the event i.e., a lie, gossip, and unkind word: and regret it. This is different from “guilt”.  It is not wallowing in our own self-pity; it is taking responsibility and owning our behaviour.
  2. Power of Restraint: Refraining from doing the harmful action for a realistic amount of time. To say we will NEVER do it again is unrealistic, saying “I will not ______ for 1 hour or, ½ day/week etc…”
  3. Power of Antidote: doing something to make-up for the action

FORMS OF ANTIDOTES:

  1. Do the opposite action. If you said an unkind word make a point of praising someone
  2. Recite mantras; wish other person or persons well. One of Sharon Salzberg’s Loving Kindness meditations comes to mind.

May ___ be well           May ___ be happy          May ___ be peaceful

  1. Make amends, if it does not harm others.  If it would do harm then do it silently, wish them well or dedicate a good deed to them.

The important final step is to have compassion for oneself.  We all make mistakes.  It is okay to not be perfect.   When we can forgive ourselves we can more easily forgive others for being human also.

 GUILT IS USELESS – INTELLIGENT REGRET IS ESSENTIAL.

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