The very first thing you have to do to say goodbye to guilt is determine if you are actually guilty. Usually guilt is not guilt at all, but instead it’s sadness that you couldn’t do more to help, disappointment that you didn’t achieve something you set out to do, or anger because you said “yes” to something that deserved a “no”.
For example, as a parent, you might think you feel guilty because something didn’t happen the way you imagined for your children. That isn’t guilt unless you have really done something to prevent your child from living their own life.
Usually guilt comes from not doing something instead of doing something wrong.
When you do something because you feel guilty not doing that something, no one wins. You aren’t happy, which means you aren’t really present or giving your all. The project or action suffers, your partners suffer and you’ve completely overlooked the greater good.
You may feel badly that you are not participating, but worse if you do.
Instead of acting out of guilt and obligation …
- do something that moves you
- do something that calls you
- do something that you want to do
- do something that makes your heart sing
There will always be little tasks that you might not completely enjoy. I don’t love grocery shopping, but I need to eat and feed my family. I don’t love running errands, but sometimes I have to go the bank, or drop my daughter off somewhere.
While you may have responsibilities that must be attended to, there are plenty of things you do that could be avoided with this simple strategy:
Say no thank you.
No thank you requires no explanation, or further waste of your time. While some things may need further consideration, you usually know if you want to participate in something or not.
Give in to guilt and say goodbye to:
- Time. Give your time to someone that you don’t want to be with or to an organization that you don’t care about by stealing time from your favorite people and projects.
- Energy. If you are low on energy, consider the fact that what you are doing is not feeding your heart and soul. If you are working on a project that you feel passionate about, you will feel passion. If you working on a project that you feel miserable about, you will feel miserable.
- Money. Have you ever made a purchase out of guilt? She bought me that, so I should buy her that. We are going there for a party so we should by them this. I treated him poorly so I should buy him one of those. They might not know how much we love them, so let’s get them this. Stop it. Your presents don’t equal love. Your presence does.
- Peace of Mind. Acting out of guilt might bring you temporary relief, but it will never deliver peace of mind.
- Real joy. If you are spending your resources doing something out of guilt, you miss an opportunity to do something you love, something that makes your heart swell, something that will bring you and the world real joy. Do not miss out on real joy. It’s amazing.
Maybe you are guilty about something that’s already happened or something you could have done differently. I think we’ve all experienced that feeling before. When you start to think about that instance, please remember:
- you cannot change what’s already happened
- you aren’t perfect
- you are loved anyway
- you can give yourself a second chance
- the energy you are spending on what happened yesterday is robbing the energy you have for today
- you can still apologize
- you can choose to change anytime
Guilt is a feeling that you’ve done something wrong or let someone down. When you devote your time to your most important work and the most important people in your life and the things that mean the most to you, then you can say goodbye to guilt.