Guilt is an emotional warning sign that lets us know when we’ve done something wrong. It prompts us to re-examine our behaviour so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice. In those cases, guilt is purposeful as it commands that one re-examine their moral compass and re-set their behaviours. For example, after saying something offensive to a friend, feeling guilty suggests that an apology is required and that modifying future behaviour is in order.
There are times, however, when behaviour isn’t something that needs re-examining or changing. While guilt may inform us of wrong doing, it can also be the by-product of a distorted belief system. Our belief system is shaped by a variety of factors such as the way we were raised, education, personal experience, religious beliefs, our cultural background etc. Guilt can come from messages, thoughts and stories integrated along the way of life. Once it is assumed that these thoughts and stories are truthful, it is unlikely that they will be challenged.
The next time you experience guilt, ask yourself if your moral compass is pointing in the direction of poor behaviours or whether it is time to examine the quality of the thoughts you entertain and the belief systems you nurture.
By examining the belief system which feeds guilt, you can understand its origin, evaluate its value and choose to transform it. Letting go of guilt may leave room to feel more fulfilling emotions. For example, if you are blessed with a good life, you can choose to feel gratitude and appreciation rather than guilt. By choosing what you think, you choose what you feel, therefore guilt is optional.
Remember, you have the option to psychologically torture yourselves or you can consider that your thoughts are just thoughts, and your thoughts are not necessarily the truth. This should assist you in developing new belief systems and perspectives.