There are many types of guilt that can attack someone’s heartstrings. Guilt can make people feel undesirable, unable to move forward, and inadequate because they feel like they will never live up to the expectations of other people. Guilt is a powerful emotion that, if left unresolved, can feel like it is taking over one’s soul.
The causes of guilt can look different for each and every person:
- You missed your nephew’s birthday party to attend a once-in-a-lifetime concert.
- You forgot your best friend just had surgery and didn’t check on them.
- You re-gifted a Christmas present that you were not very fond of.
- You are not ready to have kids and your spouse has been ready since the day you married. You are not sure how to tell them that you just are not ready yet, so you avoid the conversation.
- You forgot your anniversary or spouse’s birthday.
- You said you were going to bring soup to a sick friend and decided to go home instead because it was a long and tiring day.
- Gossiping about your friends behind their backs.
- Not finishing that mile-long to-do list.
- You went shopping and put your bills on the backburner.
Guilt: The Conscience Pressure Cooker
If left unresolved, guilt can fester and change the entire course of someone’s life. Unresolved guilt can alter someone’s day completely, steal someone’s joy and confidence, and make them feel inferior. Guilt can make a person feel like they are failing at everything they do, are not good enough, and never will be good enough.
This form of intense pressure can lead a person down a dark and dangerous road. It’s almost as if your conscience is a pressure cooker – the pressure and guilt continue to build and must be released to avoid burnout or emotional injury.
Misplaced guilt can occur when someone else tries to place blame, which is often the case in emotionally abusive or manipulative situations. The manipulator tries to make the victim feel like it is their fault that they are being mistreated. Misplaced guilt can also happen without realizing it from both parties.
In times of crisis, it is easy to look for someone or something to blame. In fact, that is how many people deal with the intense emotional pain. When someone is feeling emotionally beaten down, they want to find an outlet to focus on.
For example, when someone loses a loved one who was a passenger in a car accident, they automatically want to blame the driver. This can be a case of misplaced guilt because the conditions that led to the accident were not in the hands of the driver. Misplaced guilt can occur when someone places blame for an event that was out of their control.
Guilt by Association
Guilt by association can be a tricky form of guilt. A person is often hanging with a person or crowd who does something they do not agree with, so they refrain from doing it. However, being around people who are doing something you do not agree with can result in lingering feelings of guilt.
Bullying is a prime example of guilt by association. You may not be the person directly picking on or making fun of someone; however, just being around bullies and not standing up for injustice can take a toll on your emotional health.
Dealing with Guilt
Pinpoint the guilt.
It is important to determine whether you are experiencing misplaced guilt and realize that you may be blaming yourself for something that is completely out of your control. If you are dealing with a case of festering guilt and a situation or conversation that was your fault – perhaps you were angry and exchanged harsh words with your spouse – it is important to address those lingering feelings.
Apologize when you need to apologize and talk things out when you can. Do not put your feelings of guilt on the backburner and try to hide them in your heart. This is the beginning of a spiraling path of anger, rage, and bitterness, and can put a dent in your joy and your relationships.
Learn from it and move on.
Loving wholeheartedly can lead to heightened emotions and inexpressible grief when someone you love is hurting. It is important to realize that one’s emotional pressure cooker can not be left unchecked. It is healthy to grieve when you need to grieve instead of trying to find someone to blame.
It is important to realize that you are often your biggest critic which is why it is so important to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. Try not to hurt the same person again next time. Learn from the past.
It is also important to realize that it is okay if you did not check off every single thing on your mile-long to do list. There is always tomorrow – take life one day at a time. We often put unrealistic expectations on ourselves while trying to chase ladders of success.
In cases of guilt by association, it is important to realize that sometimes we need to separate ourselves from people or situations that are harming other people. Cases of gossip, bullying, and toxic relationships are a few of the many situations that can leave a person feeling guiltly and leave the soul feeling uneasy and unsure of what to do.
Channel it for good.
Guilt can teach us a lot. How to offer grace and have compassion for others are two things we can learn from the unfortunate lingering pain that guilt can cause. God offers us grace when we sin. When a person accepts Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, they ask Him to wash away their sins and cleanse their soul. They also inherit the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who convicts the of sin, encourages them, and reminds them that hope is never lost.
God sent His only Son to die for sinners in order to cleanse them from sin. We can learn from this example by forgiving others. As Jesus said the Sermon on the Mount, “…if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15) We are to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Do not let it haunt you.
Guilt leaves an imprint on the soul. If guilt is left unchecked, it can take a toll on one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. It is not too late to start fresh if you are feeling bogged down by past choices, broken relationships, toxic conversations, guilt by association, or lingering feelings of unworthiness.
It is important to realize that your past does not have to define your future. In fact, it can help mold and shape you into a person who has a different outlook on the world and helps others deal with their inner turmoil and unforgiveness. However, remember that the first step is dealing with and addressing your own inner turmoil and feelings of unforgiveness.
Counseling Can Make a World of Difference
It is important to realize that people often feel guilty for needing help or having weaknesses to address. We all have different parts of our lives that need improvement, and areas in which we need to grow. We all have areas where we have been wounded and intentionally or unintentionally placed blame for our actions on someone else.
C.S. Lewis said, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.”
Life is going to throw you curveballs. Relationships are going to be tested and tried. You are going to be hard on yourself when debt accrues or when your best friend will not call you back because you hurt her feelings. It is important to take the steps to deal with guilt, learn from it, channel it for good, and not let it haunt you.
Schedule a counseling session today to take the steps to rekindle that severed relationship or address the guilt that has been festering in your soul for years.
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