Pangs of Conscience

carrotHave you ever felt guilty for something that was just not yours to own? Everyone has done this one, right? So maybe I should be asking, when was the last time you felt guilty for something that wasn’t your responsibility?

I’m not saying there aren’t times I haven’t sincerely screwed up and needed to pass out an apology or seven but, I often find myself at the end of some self-induced punishment in the form of obsessive guilt that I just don’t need to hold up to my personal lens of responsibility.

1409-wes-taking-ownership-four-top-down-strategies-that-create-better-teamworksource         In all reality the easy stuff is when we KNOW we screwed up! Now, THAT’S saying something! Look, if you really mess up, apologize! DO IT! Admit you’re wrong and be contrite. Recognize what you’ve done is out of league with your norm, and resolve not to do it again. DON’T sit around drawing more attention to it and yourself with ” I’m such an ass,” statements. Make amends and move on.

The same goes for when you don’t need to own it.

It’s not easy to stand by your convictions and not take on extra guilty baggage when you don’t meet the expectations of other people. Example: I will often feel responsible if I’m not able to help someone with something they’ve asked, or even inferred they would like me to do. That’s just my feelings of inadequacy, and my fear of failure disguised as guilt. When I allow subversive guilt to get in my way, it eats at my self-esteem. It devours me emotionally and relentlessly hammers at my self (1)source

Webster defines Guilt: Noun: a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation.  Verb:make (someone) feel guilty, especially in order to induce them to do something.

By shear definition, it implies assumptions of what we should be feeling and the possibility of manipulation.

I wish (as I’m sure you do) that it was as easy as 1,2,3 steps but it’s not. The way I see it (and who knows if that’s right or wrong)…is …

  • First you have to be honest with yourself-often a difficult task in tough circumstances
  • Recognize that you’re most likely angry or dissapointed or saddened by whatever has occured.
  • Recognize the need to identify what may really be at the core of your guilt.Why are you feeling compelled to either do or not do something in the first place?
  • Know one of two things in your heart: 1. That if you weren’t allowed to feel guilty, you would probably just be PO’d that someone has put you in this position and you  turned your back on what you thought was the better choice… or 2. That you yourself are putting needless expectations on yourself for some unrelated reason you harbor in your psyche.

If you find yourself feeling guilty all the time or even just questioning why you’re feeling guilty about a certain situation, you may want to explore the idea a little further. Ask yourself a few telling questions.

  • Are you judging this situation by your standards or someone else’s?
  • Are you  being honest with yourself? What do you really know or feel about this situation?
  • If an angel  came down and said “Never fear, no one will ever know about this situation,” would you still need to feel guilty? I mean after you regained consciousness of course cuz well, c’mon, a real live angel… I mean, really…

How does this relate to your goals? Have you been feeling guilty for dropping off some?

Is it yours to own? If it is… OWN IT AND MOVE ON! If its not… LET IT GO AND MOVE ON…

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2 Responses to Pangs of Conscience

  1. This was a great reflection and much to ponder on. Guilt is such a tricky thing. It’s easy to take in on when you shouldn’t, and twice as hard to cope with when you know it is yours to bear. I am slowly learning not to be so hard on myself, compassion begins at home! I’ve done better this week than last with my goals, in part because I didn’t beat myself up for last week’s difficulties. Some of it was self-induced, much of it wasn’t. At any rate, that week is over, so time to dust off my pants and move on! I had to smile at your comment about wallowing in your guilt to draw attention, ahh yes, it is so much easier to proclaim my pathetic failures to the world than to find the energy to actually do the work to change them. That is part of my project for this year, to stop making excuses and start Just Doing It! I’m finding part of that easy, other parts that require physical actions I tend to avoid at all costs. :-))


  2. Ah guilt…I know it well. I take the world personally and often let guilt take over. Mine is often the failed an obligation variety…whether real or imagined.


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