Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life Chapters – Living with Guilt

What is Guilt

The feeling of remorse or self-reproach one experiences when they feel responsible for a wrong or offense.  We all experience feelings of guilt from time-to-time for many different reasons.  No one is exempt.  We have all felt guilt at some point and to some degree.  Guilt can destroy lives such as when one is found guilty of a crime or as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where Lady Macbeth is driven to insanity and ultimately death as a result of her guilt.

The Effects of Guilt

Guilt affects people in different ways.  Some will become sick as a result of their guilt.  Others have taken their own life to escape their guilt.  Some suffer with their guilt while others learn to deal with it.  Many have confused guilt with shame, but it is easy to distinguish between the two.  Guilt is what you feel for what we do.  Shame is what we feel for what we are.  In other words, what I did verses who I am.  Even though shame is a much stronger emotion both shame and guilt have an immense impact on our perception of self and how we interact with others.  One can experience guilt but have no shame or can be full of shame but have no guilt.

My Guilt

I have lived with guilt for a good part of my adult life.  Every day since an early December 1979 morning I have lived with the feeling of guilt.  That morning two friends were killed in a terrorist attack.  I feel guilty for their deaths.  My work schedule had been changed from days to evenings which meant my friend John was up front driving the bus that morning when it was attacked not someone else.  It also meant that I was not sitting where Emil sat that morning when the gunfire killed him. 

For me it went something like this.  First, I was happy to be alive but saddened by my friends’ deaths.  I was grateful it was not me but hurt for the families involved.  Over time I began to think more and more about what had happened.  In time a great sense of remorse filled me over what had happened that fateful morning.  I began to second guess myself and play the “what if” and “If I had only” games which brought on even deeper feelings of guilt – “If I had only been there” or “I should have seen it coming.”  These feelings of guilt were normal until they completely consumed my life. 

What Guilt will Do

Guilt will grind you down, it will eat away at you every moment of every day and it will crush your spirit and desire to continue on in life.  If guilt is left unchecked it can and will destroy you.

In many regards my guilt was self-punishment self-imposed for something I believed was my fault.  Since my guilt was self-imposed over time, I have been able to reconcile with my guilt and what happened that December morning.  Don’t’ wait to say the things that need to be said.  Don’t wait to do the things that need to be done.  Losing someone before saying what needs to be said or doing what needs to be done will result in feelings of guilt that could become your own demise.  Living with guilt is a difficult thing to do.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”  Voltaire

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Life Chapters – The Memories We Make

Life Connections

The connections we make in our lives are so fragile.  What we say and do make or break these connections.  Our lives depend on the connections we make throughout our entire journey through life.  The worst things we experience in our lives are not the things we have said or done or what has been said or done to us.  Rather, they are the things we hold in or neglect to say or do.  It’s our failure to see through the bad things in life to what is good that truly hurts us. They are the things we let slip away because we could not find the time to deal with them.  The little things we brush aside because we feel they are too small to matter.  These are the things that continue to follow us throughout our lives until they are resolved or we pass on.

Live Each Day

Your life journey may seem like it goes on for eternity but, one day you wake up and you realize that life has just about passed you by.  You find yourself wondering how you got to this point in life.  How did I let so many things slip by without giving a second glance?  How many connections have I broke because I neglected to do what my heart told me was right?  As each day passes, all you have left of that day are memories whether they are bad or good, right or wrong.  The memories you keep are the memories you make each day along your journey.  Therefore, each day you experience should be embraced as though it was your last day; your best day; your finest hour.  Fill each day with joy and excitement.  Tell people you meet along the way how wonderful they are.  Don’t neglect the little things in life that matter.  Strive to see the good, no matter how deep you have to look.  In doing so, you will truly live life to its fullest; grasping everything it has to offer along the way.  Failing to do so, only keeps you from living and enjoying all of life’s rewards.

Life is Fragile

Life is so fragile.  So much of what you say and do and so much of what is said and done to you burdens your pursuit of a rewarding experience on your journey through life.   Memories are what we make of them.  If you chose to live in your memories you will be burdened with things that have no relevance on the reality of the current day.  Bad things happen to all of us.  Some of us survive; others struggle throughout life wondering why it had to happen to me.  Those who have the ability to put their memories into proper prospective will endure and push on.  They are the ones who will be rewarded with the best of what life has to offer.  If you live each day to its fullest and to the best of your ability, you will be blessed with a magnitude of wonderful memories which is incomprehensible.  The good memories you make do not burden you, but rather provide you with joy and comfort.

The Good and the Bad

Experiences that have hurt you have the ability to continue hurting you for a long time after the initial experience has stopped.  This happens to you because you let it.  Remember, memories are what you make of them.  If you chose to dwell on the things that have hurt you or made you feel bad, you will continue to hurt and feel bad in the present.  Dwelling on bad memories will never provide you the opportunity to remember all the good things you have experienced.  We all have the ability to put our memories into proper prospective.  Just as hurtful and bad things burden you down, they can also teach you valuable lessons.  They can teach you how to avoid the hurt and bad that life throws at us.  If you cannot let go of your past, you can never move into the future.  This is the reasoning you must use when dealing with memories that feed your mind with the pain of your past. 

Memories are just that, memories.  In most cases, they have no bearing on the outcome of the present day unless you let them.  Bad memories bring you down; good memories make you feel good.  Start each day with a good memory.  Some may feel they do not have any good memories to recall.  This may be true however; if you embrace each day and live it to its fullest potential you will soon have many more good memories than bad.  This is not to say that bad memories should be forgotten rather, just that they should be placed into the proper prospective and not allowed to be dwelled upon.  Life is too short to live in the past.  We all need to learn to let go of the memories that hurt us and how to cherish the ones that provide us joy and comfort.