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Get Rid of Guilt and Shame!

 What I Do Is Not Necessarily Who I Am  

By Doug Kelley

Note: This article is actually Life Rule 3 from my book, The Game Rules for Life, published in June 2000. It approaches Guilt from a general point of view.   --Doug Kelley

 

Oh, how we love to languish in our guilt and shame. For some, it is almost as essential as food and water. But guilt is perhaps one of the most destructive, debilitating emotions we humans possess. It is absolutely useless to anguish over something which has been done that we cannot change.

If there is any good to guilt at all, it is and should be short-lived. For instance, when we do something wrong, our conscience rebukes us. This initial stage is the only beneficial aspect to guilt, since it prompts us to realize our mistake and make the necessary changes.

Healthy people use self-chastisement to steer themselves back on course. They learn the lesson, make amends, modify their behavior, lose the guilt, and move on with life. The problem is that few people can actually do this. It seems that just about everyone feels the pain of guilt over something they have done, or should have done. And where does it get them? Absolutely nowhere.

Correction. There is something that comes from unresolved guilt: alcoholism, drug abuse and other types of self-destructive behavior; depression, unfulfilled lives, unattained potential, relationship problems, physical ailments including unexplained bodily pains, and a host of other life destroying problems. Did you notice anything good here?

 

Guilt, Shame and Self-Worth

There is a direct relationship between guilt, shame and self-worth. It is widely known that guilt is when we feel bad about something we did, while shame is when we feel bad about ourselves. Either way, when we carry a burden of guilt or shame, we invariably have low self-esteem. This sense of low or no self-worth leads to many self-imposed problems including the previously cited physical and social illnesses. And this opens a plethora of self-destructive emotions. In essence, we turn on ourselves like a ravaging disease.

At some point in our lives, each one of us has no doubt observed this notable and undeniable truth: nobody ever seems to feel good enough about themselves. We are too fat, too thin; we don’t like our nose, our chin, our hair, our behind; and so the shame list goes on and on without end. We incessantly torment ourselves over whatever it is that we don’t like. Further, we associate whatever it is that we don't like with our self-worth. In our minds, as long as this "something" exists, we are somehow just not good enough—we carry a more damaging form of guilt called shame, and the effects are the same—self-destructive.

When will we begin to appreciate our own uniqueness?  Whenever we compare ourselves physically with others in an unfavorable way, we cheat ourselves out of our own individuality. The media would have us believe that we must be in style with the latest fad. But is it really written somewhere that we must all look alike? or dress alike? or act alike? Very likely, the only place it is written is in our minds.

Rather than put ourselves down continually, we must work hard to concentrate on our positives, focusing on that which makes us unique and likable. We all have things that we would change if we could. Even people who we think have it all, don't. Nobody has it all because no one is perfect. We all realize this and yet continue to criticize and insult ourselves. Now is the time to stop this nonsense! Change what you can change and accept the rest as a necessary part of your own unique humanity. Make peace with who you are.

 

“If Only…”

The "If Only's" can be unsettling:  "If only I had raised the children better; if only I had taken a different route home; if only I had told him or her how I really felt; if only I had seen it coming; if only I had made a different choice…" We can "if only" ourselves to death.

Maybe some of us are not as prone to the if only’s as others, but we all suffer occasionally from this mental aberration to one extent or another. The if only's are yet another form of guilt, and carry serious risks to our mental health. They can also lead to shame if we begin to feel bad about ourselves instead of something we did. We never live up to our true potential because we perpetually denigrate ourselves right down to the foundation of our very soul.

So, how do we neutralize the if only’s? One way is by adopting the philosophy that as a rule, all of us are trying to do our best, with the knowledge, experience and resources that we possess at the moment. We all wish we could somehow make today’s decisions with tomorrow’s knowledge and experience, but life just doesn’t work that way. We know this, and yet we cling to this self-sabotaging behavior. Let’s be reasonable and realistic—we can only do so much.

In all fairness, it may be said that the concept of "If Only" can be used positively. If we use it to avoid certain known pitfalls down the road, it can be indispensable. For example, my father has "If Only…" displayed on the dashboard of his car. He uses it to remind himself to fasten his seatbelt. He never wants to say in the future, “If only I had put my seatbelt on, I or a passenger would not have been hurt.”

Guilt Over Childhood Mistakes, Trials and Abuse

Childhood guilt can cause much deep-seated pain to a person. I have sometimes looked back on certain of my own childhood mistakes, only to cringe over the embarrassment that I feel as an adult. Mistakes we made in childhood should be understood and reckoned with in the same manner as any other mistakes we make. As long as we learned the lesson, we are better for having had the experience than before it. It has added to the total of who we are, and given us cause for empathy toward others.

Another common childhood trial is that of divorce. Some children may feel very responsible and therefore, very guilty when their parents divorce. They may carry this guilt into adulthood before they realize that it was not their fault at all. In fact, it had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with their parents. Once this realization occurs, the guilt will usually melt away.

Other childhood mistakes can seem very unreasonable or even laughable to adults, but weigh heavily on such impressionable and inexperienced young ones. A very nice acquaintance of mine once wrote a story of how she believed that she had started World War II when she was only eight years old. She wrote:

"The year was 1941. I was sitting at my desk daydreaming. The rest of my class was studying the civil war. "Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live during a war - so romantic." This daydream was to haunt me for many years. Be careful what you wish for, it may come true.

"… On [a] particular Sunday, we were driving home from seeing “The Three Little Foxes” when the news came on that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed. The Japanese had attacked by air and sank most of our fleet.  We were at war.  I felt as if I was the most horrible, deplorable little girl in the world. I had wished for this vulgar thing, and my wish had come true. It was my fault all these men were dead. I stayed miserable for four years.

"… On my way home from school it was my habit to pick up the mail for our next door neighbor and us. Our neighbor, Ruby, would always wait on the porch in nice weather to see if I brought a letter from her fiancée who was in the service. One day I pulled an envelope out of the box addressed to Ruby. It had a black border around it and I knew instinctively what it contained [her fiancée had been killed]. The hardest thing I ever had to do was walk that distance to her house and hand her the envelope. She looked at it and screamed and screamed. Her mother came out of the house and retrieved the envelope and gently helped Ruby into the house.  How I hated myself for ever making that wish!

"… My cousin George came home from the South Pacific where he had been a top turret gunner on a B29. He was thin and looked much older…. I confided to him [that] I was the true reason for his agony and how the war was my fault for having made that long-ago wish. God had answered it. [George] put his arm around me and gently explained how the war really started. God hadn’t given me my wish. The plans for the war were well in place before I made my wish.

"… I had a new hero who had finally taken all my self-torture away. Next to my brother, he was my best hero." —"The Wish" by Audrey Gross, February, 2000

 

From this story, it is easy to see how guilt can plague even children. Parents need to use discernment and help their children to release any guilt so that it doesn't consume their emotional strength.

Another more serious form of childhood suffering concerns something that I have fortunately experienced only second hand—child molestation. In addition to several people I have known, a person once very close to me was molested as a child, so my knowledge of this dreadful injustice comes directly from my own agonizing experience in trying to help her.

I am ceaselessly shocked at the prevalence of child sexual abuse. I am not talking here about children being "gender curious" with other children. I am talking about sexual molestation committed by those whom are trusted and looked up to, such as clergymen, scout or youth group leaders, friends and relatives—adults who should know better.

I am also amazed at the profound and devastating effect sexual molestation has on such young and tender hearts. This sort of atrocity is almost unforgivable. Once this act is committed, the little child loses his or her innocence, which is a crime in itself. The child is now forever changed and is totally confused, because an authority figure has crossed intimate personal boundaries that the child was not yet fully aware of. This gross misdeed can never be undone.

Many times, the child will push the ordeal back to the furthest reaches of his or her mind. They effectively cease to remember it consciously, only to have it return years later. His or her precious self-worth is utterly annihilated.

Child sexual abuse is best described as a ticking time bomb. There may be few outward demonstrations of anything wrong to the untrained eye, and this may likely continue into adulthood. But once the person matures enough in life, the bomb explodes and memories come gushing forth like the flood of water that assaults a valley just below a broken dam. It is unstoppable. Nightmares, flashbacks and many tears are the norm. Emotional immobility is intense. Life problems escalate. Some victims are completely unable to function any longer in routine activities. And not to be dismissed or minimized is the brutal impact this can have on family members, close friends, and relationships. They too must learn to cope and heal from the pain.

Quite often, sexual abuse results in intensified self-destructive behaviors, such as increased depression and mental instability; suicide is even a possibility. In reality, these new behaviors were likely preceded by other self-destructive behaviors, but again, only recognizable to the trained observer. Such behaviors can include:

·        Depression and emotional/mental instability;

·        Alcoholism and/or drug addiction;

·        An inordinate interest in sex, manifesting itself as  promiscuity and/or obsession with 

         pornography;

·        Unnatural craving for attention from the same or opposite sex;

·        An excessive distrust of others, or the extreme opposite;

·        Reckless lack of concern for their own well-being, or the extreme opposite, e.g. taking 

         themselves too seriously;

·        Failed marriages and relationships;

·        Finding little or no meaning and purpose in life;

·        A deep sense of futility;

·        Inability to function normally or even not at all;

·        Little or no sense of self-worth;

·        Verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse of others;

·        Being introverted and shy, or the extreme opposite;

·        Phobias, such as fear of public places and small spaces;

·        Physical ailments, such as tremors and unexplained bodily pains.

 

 

It has been my experience that this ticking time bomb usually blows up when a person enters their early 30's, give or take a few years. This is typically how long it takes before a person burns out from expending the enormous amount of energy required to keep up the self-illusion, that is, the subconscious lie they force themselves to believe—that it never happened.

the healing process

If you are suffering from childhood molestation, Take Heart! Help is not far off! You can take steps to heal your deep wounds. The first thing to do is immediately consult a competent psychiatrist, therapist or counselor, if you haven't already. I advise against the clergy because, while they may provide understanding and comfort, they are simply not equipped with the necessary professional skills to help you.

I want to warn here of some possible dangers: confiding in or turning to friends or family as your primary means of recovery; and dealing with repressed memories. You must handle these with discretion for the following reasons:

Friends. Many who have suffered the effects of childhood sexual molestation do not have their lives under control, and consequently may not have chosen the best quality of friends. Confiding in a "friend" can backfire on you, because even though we all like to think that we have a friend who will understand and be there for us, most people cannot handle the intensity and longevity that your healing may take. It can be a tremendous setback in your healing process when a friend backs away because they do not know how to handle your problems—which only adds to your guilt. This is sad, but understandable. You must honestly admit that even you do not know how to handle the situation without professional help, so it is logical that they wouldn't either. Avoid putting them in this position if you are not absolutely sure, and then think twice before proceeding to self-disclose to a friend.

Family. In my own experience of helping a victim cope, I found that confiding in your parents must also be handled with extreme caution. This admonition may strike you as quite absurd, especially if you are close with your parents, but read on. If one or both of your parents were molested themselves, or if they personally knew the person that molested you (which is likely), then they may be whirling and lost in a black hole of denial, and emotionally unable or unwilling to emerge. To believe and accept your story may bring more pain than they are willing to confront at this point in their lives. It may open deep wounds from their past, or remind them of the guilt they may have felt for not protecting you.

I am not saying that you shouldn't confide in your parents, but you must use discretion. You do not want to go through the terrible trauma of dealing with past abuse, only to face the added trauma of denial from those closest to you. Without proper professional help, you may feel pushed over the edge.

Repressed Memories. Repressed memories can be vague, ambiguous and distorted. The reason being that the events happened long ago, and are remembered through the eyes of a child. One time several years ago, I was trying to help the person mentioned above deal with her memories of abuse. Over a period of a couple of years, she began to remember and describe a number of misdeeds her abuser had committed against her—even having terrible nightmares of the incidents. We finally decided that she should write a letter and confront her abuser. Since she was emotionally distraught, I began the letter listing the abuses for her. I grew concerned when she began to prevaricate or evade the matter. I finally asked her, "Did these things actually occur or not?" She replied, "Not all, but some." I have to admit that I was shocked. For two years, we had gone through serious emotional distress because she was adamant that these abuses had occurred. But now, I discovered that the most serious offenses were simply empty memories—they were not true at all. Needless to say, we did not finish the letter.

This is the danger of repressed memories. You must seek competent professional help to determine whether they are real or imagined (which incidentally, we had not done at the time). What a tragedy it would be if you mistakenly accused a family member of abuse that never really happened.

A final thought: If you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, remember, it is not your fault!  You were a helpless victim, not a perpetrator. Work hard to resolve any feelings of guilt you may still harbor. Seek a knowledgeable and experienced therapist. If you do, there is every reason in the world to believe that you will get past this difficult period in your life!

 

a note to the family and friends of abused children

If you are a parent, sibling, spouse, or friend of a person who was sexually abused, you must understand that very little else compares to the pain and horror that the victim feels. You must also understand that the healing process can take time. The more understanding and support that you give, the better it will go.

The worst thing you can do as a parent is to deny that the abuse took place. Even if you have legitimate doubts concerning whether the abuse actually took place or not, that does not change the victim's reality. Only regular therapy from a competent and trained counselor will bring out the truth. In the interim, you must accept that the past abuse is painfully and vividly real to the victim. He or she needs your unfailing love and support to make it through the process of healing—not your denial.

Never underestimate the negative power of denial. In my above personal experience, the adult victim's parents would listen to her tearful cries of past abuse, but did not really seem to believe it. My personal observation of why goes right back to the feeling of guilt by her parents. As a child, the victim did go to her parents to complain of the abuse (as so many children do). However, the matter was not taken seriously and quickly dropped because the abuser was an older teenage son of trusted friends, all of who denied that anything had happened. It also did not help that the parents were heavily involved with the abuser's parents in a local church. In short, her parents failed to protect her because they apparently did not believe her accusations nor possess the self-confidence to stand up for what was right in the face of strong personalities. This was   deplorable, because there were also complaints from other young girls, including the victim's sister. Guilt is a powerful emotion. It can keep people in a dark and emotionless vortex, indefinitely or permanently.

If I have just described a situation that you can identify with, then take immediate action to stop your denial! You may not realize it yet, but it is destroying the relationship you have with your child! Seek the forgiveness of your child for your denial. Then resolve to never swim in the vast sea of denial again.

Additionally, if you are a parent who feels guilt over the abuse of your child, and are doing all you can to help, then you too take heart. There is hope, for your child and for your own feelings of guilt. Keep reading and apply the techniques discussed below in the subheading, How to Get Rid of the Guilt.

   

Guilt and Shame Motivation

I would be remiss if I did not address another form of guilt that often comes our way—guilt or shame motivation. We see this type of manipulation in dysfunctional families and certain areas of culture, such as religion. Our belief system, including our spiritual and religious values, can play an integral part in whether or not we are motivated by guilt, or worse, shame.

In combating guilt motivation, it is important to understand precisely what it is. Motivation by guilt is nothing more than an effort to control—a personal boundary violation. As an example, for many centuries religionists have taught the doctrine of Hell Fire in an effort to control and manipulate the masses. It was so easy: “If you don’t conform, you’ll burn in hell forever.”

In a broader sense, we may be victims to similar reasoning from our friends, family or others. If you were ever told, “You’d better do this or you’ll never amount to anything,” then you were being manipulated by guilt. Closely related, but worse yet, is shame motivation. This is evident if you were ever told, "You're stupid" or "You're no good." These were efforts to control you through guilt and shame—an appalling misdeed. You might as well have strings attached to you.

Those who profess certain religious beliefs have a huge moral responsibility not to engage in guilt motivation, keeping in mind the Biblical admonition: God’s "commands are not burdensome.” [1]

If you feel the bite of this dysfunctional type of motivation, it is important that you re-establish your personal boundaries, that is, what you will or will not accept from those trying to control you. Resolve to quit buying into dysfunctional reasoning. Don’t be a puppet.

 

How to Get Rid of the Guilt

With knowing the destructive power of guilt and shame, just how do you bring it under control? I recommend the following two principles and subsequent steps:

Adopting a Realistic View of Imperfection and Sinfulness Is an Essential Part of the Solution. For many years, I agonized over a mistake that I had made when I was 14 years old. I was helping at my church in a position that involved collecting money for various religious books that church members wanted. On one occasion I quietly slipped a $20 bill into my pocket—I stole it. I can't remember what I spent it on, but it was certainly nothing virtuous. That one incident bothered me so much, that a few years later and over a period of time, I replaced the money several times over to "atone" for my sin. I now know that it was simply the foolishness of a kid. But I used to wonder why in the world I would ever do something like that, in essence, to steal from God. I knew inside that I was not a thief. I knew that I had many other qualities that were positive, but that one incident continued to haunt me for almost two decades. Then one day I realized a critical truth:

What I do is not necessarily who I am.

I realized that no matter how hard I tried to do what was right, I could never do it perfectly all the time. Yes, I had to come to terms with the fact that I made more mistakes than I liked to honestly admit thus far.

Yet, the significant thing was, although I made my fair share of mistakes, this did not mean I was a worthless or wicked person. So, I finally accepted the fact that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as I learned the lesson, made amends, and then moved on with life without making the same mistake again.

Adopting a New Viewpoint Toward Guilt Is the Other Essential Ingredient. As with other burdens that we carry, I had to get fed up. I had to get angry over carrying a burden of guilt all my life for one petty, ridiculous thing after another. This anger gave me the freedom to stop carrying unnecessary guilt (which means all guilt, since all guilt is unnecessary after it performs its initial task). Frankly, I was tired of carrying the burden.

Further, I began to reason that if God wants me to be perfect, He could make me perfect. If He is not willing to do that, then it follows that He must be willing to overlook minor infractions. This being the case, I do not have to feel so bad about myself when I make mistakes.

Now, don’t get me wrong—this way of reasoning was NOT a license to do whatever I wanted with impunity. Quite the contrary, I would continue to do my best to live an honest and clean life. But now, I would recognize and accept that my “best” each day would vary. Some days, because of circumstances, my “best” was better than other days. Some months were better than other months, and so on.

When we find that we have stumbled, here are six steps we can use to resolve it:

1)      Admit and accept the wrong. Anytime we stumble, no good will come of the lesson unless we first admit that we have made a mistake, and then accept it. If we don't, then we are in a state of denial. In this state, it is easy to take ourselves too seriously, a commonality in codependents and those who may be spouses or children of alcoholics or substance abusers. Taking ourselves too seriously occurs when we cannot accept our own imperfect nature; or when we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves (for example, have you ever observed someone who cannot laugh at themselves?). At some point, we must reconcile that we can't control everything in life, including making mistakes. If I have just described you, remember: It is okay to make mistakes, as long as you benefit from the experience!

2)      Learn the lesson contained therein. Once we admit and accept that we have made a mistake, then we must ask the "Why?" question to discover our motivations. Was it just a thoughtless blunder? Did we say something without thinking? Then perhaps the lesson is to be more careful with people's feelings next time, or think before we speak.

What if we intentionally do something against someone else? Again, why? Was it out of anger or revenge? Then perhaps the lesson is to gain control of our emotions and show empathy for others. No matter what we have done, there is a reason and a lesson contained therein. Take the time to discover both.

With thoughtful consideration of this second step, we can avoid the pain of relearning the same lessons over and over again.

3)      Forgive yourself first. We cannot control whether another person will forgive us or not, but we can control whether we will forgive us or not. It is unhealthy not to forgive ourselves for being imperfect. After all, can we really be any other way than imperfect? We can go through the remainder of these six steps, but if we do not forgive ourselves, then we carry the burden of guilt indefinitely—with damaging results. This whole Game Rule revolves around letting go of unnecessary guilt, which means all sustained guilt. The primary way to let go is to forgive yourself unconditionally, before you seek forgiveness from the injured party.

4)      Make amends if possible.  Once we have forgiven ourselves for our mistake, then it is critical that we endeavor to make amends to the person(s) we hurt.

Sometime back, I had an experience with a very good client who had also become a friend. One day, I received a fax at my brokerage office from her, giving me instructions on a stock trade. I thought it was odd for her not to call as she had always done previously. I became more concerned when I realized that I had not seen nor spoken to her for about two months. I just figured that she was busy over the holidays. When I tried to call, I only got her answering machine. This only deepened my concern. Listening to my gut feeling, I faxed her back a note confirming her trade instructions and asked if I had done something to offend her. Several days passed and I heard nothing. Then I received another fax from her detailing how she was displeased with a stock trade I had done three months earlier that resulted in extra commissions being charged. This was an honest and unwitting mistake on my part, so much so, that I hadn't even noticed. Since I make it a practice to always deal honestly, sincerely and above board with my clients, I felt bad that I had not caught it sooner. What was I to do?

I decided to simply stop by her house unannounced and explain. I did not want to chance a telephone call for fear that she would not talk to me. As it turned out, she gave me the chance to explain. I was sincerely sorry for the goof and expressed it by saying, "I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart." I also extended my "profuse apologies" to her several times and begged her forgiveness. Fortunately, she accepted my apology and we continue to be friends.

The above phrases that I used to apologize are very good, but only if they are truly sincere. They are not techniques to be used just to get off the hook. We must use heart-felt honesty and sincerity when we implore the wronged individual to forgive us. If we do not truly feel what we are saying, the other person will instinctively know, and we will not regain that person's goodwill. Therefore, our attempt at making amends may likely fail. And frankly, we have no business asking for forgiveness if we are not truly sincere, or if we are just "faking" it to resolve a conflict.

What happens though, if we genuinely try to make amends, but the other person refuses to accept them? The simple truth is that when we sincerely ask for forgiveness, the ball is in the other person's court, so to speak. It is now entirely up to them whether they will accept our apology or not. If they will not accept our earnest appeals to redeem ourselves, then we are at an impasse, because we cannot control another person or their feelings. So if amends are not possible, then we must learn what we can from the incident, and move on. We must come to peace with that which we cannot change.

There is a danger though, if we stop at this step. If amends are out of the question, then our feelings of guilt can be quickly amplified to the point of emotional-immobilization. Especially is this true if we have lost a close friend due to our error. We must also be careful that our guilt does not grow into self-pity, which in turn can cause us to play the role of the victim. Like guilt, self-pity has no real value.

Incidentally, if we are the one who was wronged, we must think carefully when another comes to apologize. We may be very upset over the matter, but we should always make it easy for another to seek our forgiveness. It takes courage, self-honesty, and humility to approach a person to settle a mistake against him or her. We must keep in mind that we too err on occasion, and we certainly would want understanding, kindness, and graciousness shown to us when we are appealing for forgiveness.

A very important factor to consider when making amends: If we have wronged someone, but they do not know about it, and will never know about it unless we tell them, then it would not make sense to tell them, because there will be nothing to gain and everything to lose. This condition will likely occur only in rare instances, but it is something to consider. Why put yourself in a position to harm a relationship, only to try to regain it again? Of course, our wrong must not have any current or future physical or visible consequences to the other person, otherwise we must tell them and endeavor to make amends. We also run the risk of the wronged individual finding out about our mistake against them from another source. If this can potentially happen, then it is better for them to hear it from us first.

Please weigh this matter very carefully, for it must be used with extreme caution. If we only want to tell in an effort to gain our own forgiveness, then this is not the place to get it. We must forgive ourselves within, not based on someone else's forgiveness.

5)      Modify your behavior so you don't make the same mistake again. If we have come this far in resolving our guilt over some mistake we made, but don't change our ways, then of what value is it? It is imperative that we don't stop at just learning from the lesson. We must actually weave the benefits of the lesson into our psyche and make it an integral part of who we are. By so doing, we stack the odds against making the same mistake again.

Concerning the above experience that I had with my client and friend, I can say with full confidence that I paid much closer attention to detail from then on, and especially when it concerned her—I learned the lesson and modified my behavior.

6)      Lose the guilt and move forward with life. This final step can sometimes be achieved without much effort, because it is a natural conclusion to the five steps before it. Consider how this is so: If we have accepted and admitted the mistake, then we are not in denial. Then, we determine why we made the mistake and learn the lesson. After that, we humbly forgive ourselves first, because we have learned from our mistake and are now a better person with one more important lesson under our belt. Next, we try everything we can to make it right with the one we wronged. If we are successful in making amends (or even if we are not), we must make the necessary changes in ourselves to avoid making the mistake again. Now, the only logical thing to do is to let go of the guilt and move forward with life, and this time, much better equipped.

 

These six steps should help us to resolve almost any relationship mistake we might make, but only if we really use them. We must resolutely choose to STOP suffering the burden of needless and unnecessary guilt any longer! (Remember that all sustained guilt is needless). Properly managing guilt and shame is one of life's most important Game Rules, but also one of the hardest to master.

Even if you have made serious mistakes in life, carrying a burden of guilt will do no lasting good after you have learned the lessons contained therein. If you have hurt someone, do all you can to redeem yourself. If you cannot redeem yourself for some reason, then apply the six remaining steps above.

So, have you taken a wrong step or made a serious slip-up? Welcome to life! We all have made serious blunders to a greater or lesser degree. It’s time to quit agonizing. Rest assured, comparatively few humans are ruthless and evil, and you are not likely part of this small group. So take yourself back! Become empowered! Refuse to surrender to bad feelings about yourself any longer!

Go ahead and contemplate your guilt, your shame, but only briefly, then lose it!  [2]

Maxims on Guilt & Shame

 

• "The ineffable joy of forgiving and being forgiven forms an ecstasy that might well arouse the envy of the gods." —Elbert Hubbard

 

• "Forget your mistakes, but remember the lessons they taught you." —Author Unknown

 

• "He who makes no mistakes doesn’t do anything."      — Author Unknown

 

• "We cannot make today’s decisions with tomorrow’s knowledge and experience." —Author

 

• "The past should be a springboard, not a hammock."    —Irving Ball

 

• "Never let yesterday use up today." — Author Unknown

 

• "Failure is an event. It is not a person." — Zig Ziglar

 

• "To live is to battle the trolls in the vaults of the heart and brain." —Henrik Ibsen

 

• "The guilty think all talk is of themselves." —Geoffrey Chaucer

 

• "Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal." —South

 

 

 

[1] 1 John 5:3 (NIV)

[2] It should be noted that the above discussion pertains primarily to common human relationship mistakes, with varying degrees of severity. It does not address ultra-serious mistakes such as those involved in criminal actions. While some of the principles in this Game Rule undoubtedly apply, crimes such as murder, rape and crimes against humanity are completely different issues and go beyond the realm of everyday mistakes. If you are guilty of a crime such as this, it does not automatically make you a worthless person. However, you have a heavy burden of guilt to carry and must go above and beyond what is normal in redeeming yourself, if it is possible. The very fact that you are reading this footnote implies that there is hope for you, otherwise you wouldn't care enough to get this far.

 

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