Saturday, 28 April 2012

Guilt - A Curse.

If you want to have a happy life it is vital to steer clear of having to carry the burden of guilt. Sure, we all have problems in our life history that we feel uncomfortable about. But there is a huge difference between the ordinary "I wish I hadn't done that" feelings and REAL guilt. Real guilt is something that is a constant companion, and is very hard to shrug off. It never goes away, and life is hard when it is present.

I know a priest who told me this story. It happened about 20 years ago. He was new in the parish and was visiting one old lady, aged about 80,  for the first time. As they talked, he felt that she was holding something back, and he asked if this was so. This is what poured out of her:

She had become pregnant when she was 19, which would be round about 1930. She felt shame about being pregnant at all, was desperate and had an abortion. This made her feel worse. So now she felt a double dose of shame, but could not tell a living soul about either the pregnancy or the abortion.

From then, each time she saw a small baby, or a pregnant woman, or even a pram, she experienced almost a physical self-loathing. Even later, when you might expect the memory to fade, she would be reminded of her lost baby around the date that it would have been born, and on it's birthdays, and when it might have started school, and so on.

The lady had married and had other children, but never told her husband. The guilt was too much. It would recur twenty years or so later when she grieved for the grand-children that she might have had (even though she had others!).

She had now been a widow for some years, and the priest was the first person that she had ever told. And why? She told him that as she got older and nearer to her own death she began to get scared. She was frightened of dying and meeting God.

Now it does not matter what you think of abortion or whether you believe in God. What does matter here is that she had led a life that was handicapped. Not by physical incapacity, but by the incapacity of guilt, which had wrecked her life for about 60 years. And that is "wrecked" with a capital WR.

For the priest, he told me that it took a long while and many conversations before she could accept that her God was merciful, was ready to forgive her. Only then did her personal Hell recede, though probably only to the back of her mind.

Hopefully, the remaining years of her life were more peaceful for her.

That is a bad case of guilt, but I am sure that there are very many people who suffer like that lady. They will have many different reasons for feeling guilty, but if they cannot dismiss the feeling from their mind then they are stuck with it. And that is a real problem for them.

So, what to do if you are cursed by guilt?

1. Whatever it takes, keep guilt out of your life.

2. If you do feel guilt about something, do all that you can to get rid of it. Fast!

Then, you will be happier, fulfilled, and regret-free.

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