Guilt is one of those tricky emotions. Like it says in the title of this post, it can be the stealer of joy. It can leave us paralyzed with fear and regret. This can prevent us from not only discovering the secrets to an amazing life, but, even more importantly, deprive us from living an amazing life. This is why we have to pay close attention to how we handle the emotion of guilt in our own lives.
Guilt, although a terrible master, can be a very powerful servant. Confused? Let me explain. In my own life, I have suffered the effects of guilt many times. I used to just beat myself up over all of the mistakes I made. Do you know what this got me? Not a damn thing. The mistakes were still made and no matter how much I beat myself up over them, they didn’t change. I can tell you what did change – my health. My mental health suffered as you can imagine. Beating yourself up will make you feel like not only a failure, but you can end up making yourself feel like a terrible person for a single mistake, or maybe even several that you made. My physical health suffered. Sitting around feeling guilty and beating yourself up will drain your energy, lower your immune system and make you feel sick to your stomach. Not only will you not be good to yourself, you will not be good for anyone else.
All these emotions can have a tremendous upside. This will help turn a guilty life into an amazing life. Let me give you a personal example. I have made mistakes in personal relationships that caused me to not be the best friend, partner and coworker. It also left me feeling guilty and terrible. Now, I use those feelings as motivation to be the best I can be. When I am on the verge of doing something that is not the most considerate of the feelings of others, I recall how I felt when I did that prior. It will often have me motivated to do better. Even my current mistakes will keep me motivated to improve. If I do something I regret, or feel guilty about, I will use that terrible feeling to motivate me to do better and to remind me not to do it again.
In your own life, turn the feelings of regret and guilt from being terrible masters to powerful servants. It does suck that you cannot go back and change some of the mistakes and hurts you have done in the past, but that terrible feeling can push you into being a far better person in the future. Remember this important thought – If you are feeling guilty for an action you would not repeat, you are convicting an innocent person.