Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taking Care of Myself: Letting Go of Guilt

By the time I had reached recovery, guilt was my middle name.  I felt like a total failure at everything.  I especially felt terrible about the harm I'd done other people.

I was well informed about the basics of the Christian religion - that God sent his Son to redeem us from our sins.  But when I went to church what I heard (even if that wasn't what was said) was condemnation.  So the concept of being forgiven was of no use to me in my heavy load of guilt.  There were quite a few people in my life who had judged and condemned me as well.  Although I didn't want to believe them, I was pretty sure they were right.

I had given up on myself so I was pretty sure God had too, if there even was a God.  My dear sponsor and spiritual mother assured me that I was the only one who had given up on me.  She said God hadn't and she hadn't.  She explained that I hadn't had what I needed to live the life I was created to live, but that now I did have what I needed.  All that was necessary was to  put it into practice.

The missing piece, she explained, was that action was necessary to amend the harms I had done.  Of course, it's impossible to change the past, but it is possible to do our best to make up for our wrongs.  Amends are not the same as apologies either.  It's necessary for us to actually correct the mistakes to the best of our ability.

The process of making amends was and is a very complicated process.  The simplest ones are the financial ones - paying back what is owed. 

Of course, it's at least a beginning to express our regret to the people we have harmed, but that needs to be followed by a change in our behavior so that we don't do those things again to anyone.  Even if a person has left the earth, we can make amends to the world.  For example, if we owe that person money, we can give the amount we owe to a charity that we think the person would like.

The ultimate goal is to be able to look back at our lives and know that we have done and are doing every day, everything we can to amend our mistakes and that, therefore, we have no reason to condemn ourselves or to accept condemnation from anyone else.
What an amazing freedom that is.

Of course, it's necessary to keep up with current mistakes and correct those.  There's a step for that - continuing to take personal inventory (daily) and correct our mistakes.  That keeps resentments, fears and guilt from piling up again.

I've often wondered what purpose any of those negative emotions serve beyond alerting me to problems that need my attention.  I really believe now that that's really what they were created for.  They let me know to take care of things as they come up and then let those feeling go.  It's been a long time now since I've felt guilty for any length of time.  I believe if I have uncomfortable feelings for more than a day, it's time for me to solve (with the help of God and a wise person) the problem that's causing them.

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