The power of guilt (2)
Last time we began talking about the power of guilt. Guilt is the feeling we get when we take responsibility for the adverse situation or circumstances that have befallen us. Guilt is the outworking of our conscience that makes us feel bad for having fallen short of an expected standard.
Guilt can be positive or negative. Positive guilt is a motivator for change. It provokes and activates a process that leads to a change. Guilt can also be destructive when we allow it to eat us up to the point where we lose the zeal, energy and motivation to pick up the pieces and move on with our life.
Guilt also becomes destructive when we refuse to deal with the issues that provoked and caused the guilt and we just want to live under the weight of guilt. The combination of sorrow, guilt and pain can be very devastating if they are not properly dealt with.
It is very easy to see guilt in the wrong light. Guilt, like every emotion is a signal that something is wrong. If we focus on the feeling without checking out what exactly is wrong, we will get into a serious mess. This attitude will lead to the destructive state of self-denial. We hide under the mask of self-denial.
Guilt can blindfold us from seeing reason and if not well handled, can be a serious distraction. Guilt, if not properly handled, can prevent us from differentiating the wood from the trees.
Guilt can blindfold us and make us ask wrong questions. We internalize the questions, and most times, we come up with wrong answers and wrong conclusions. Guilt can blindfold us from making sound decisions. There is the tendency to make wrong irrational decisions when we are under the burden of guilt because guilt tends to muddle up our thinking.
Guilt carries with her cousins – remorse, regret and depression. These three cousins of guilt – remorse, regret and depression – all help in the blindfold business. We just feel that life is not worth living. What used to give us joy and satisfaction will be meaningless and burdensome. Guilt makes the company of our loved ones and those who can help us become meaningless. We feel everybody is seeing through us and seeing our error. We feel we have no basis to be happy when we are the source of a wrongdoing. Guilt reinforces our negative self-perception making us self-judgmental which hinders and hampers our inter-personal relationships. The motivation for life and for living will be at the lowest ebb. Life will just look meaningless and worthless.
When we are overwhelmed by guilt, we begin to feel we have a problem – that we are the problem. This not only robs us of the joy of living, but blindfolds and hinders us from addressing the issues that caused the guilt.
Guilt, if not well handled, has the tendency to block and muddle up our emotions, thereby hindering us from solutions to the issues at state.
Guilt and shame are related but they are not the same.
“Shame is closely related to guilt, but there is a key qualitative difference. No audience is needed for feelings of guilt, no one else need know, for the guilty person is his own judge. Not so for shame. The humiliation of shame requires disapproval or ridicule by others. If no one ever learns of a misdeed there will be no shame, but there still might be guilt. Of course, there may be both. The distinction between shame and guilt is very important, since these two emotions may tear a person in opposite directions.
- To be continued