Some thoughts on Guilt, Gratitude & Forgiveness

We are told constantly that practicing gratitude and forgiveness will make us healthier and happier, and that feeling guilty is awful for us.

But it isn’t always as simple as saying ‘thank you’, and ‘I forgive you’!

So how do we actually learn to feel grateful, and to forgive?

And how the hell do we find it in us to quit feeling guilty about stuff?

What’s behind guilt – inauthenticity

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One way to view guilt is when we feel guilty, at source is an inauthenticity. What do I mean by that?

Well, love and joy are our natural state. So when we are feeling guilty, we are usually telling ourselves a story or two about events that have happened, that take away our peace of mind. 

Here is a practice you can use to distinguish inauthenticities:

  • what am I telling myself about this situation?
  • what is really going on (underneath it)?
  • what are the facts minus my story? and
  • what new possibility can I create here?

Guilt is so destructive because it is one of the lowest vibration emotions. Therefore, guilt prevents us from being in the emotional state we need to be in in order to create the experiences that we desire.

Feelings of guilt can help us to become more aligned with our values Click To Tweet

Guilt can of course sometimes be instructional. We can use our feelings of guilt to guide us towards ways of being that are more aligned with our values.

Guilt will probably always pay us a visit when we know we haven’t met someone else’s expectations, or our own on ourselves. But our behaviour only requires reexamining in the second case. That is because other people can’t know our soul’s desire – only we can know that.

If we don’t distinguish our guilt (or name it), we can easily make it about other people. We can blame them for making us feel bad. This is a very unconscious way to behave – it is the definition of living at a very ordinary state of awareness.

Guilt is a stick that women in particular use to beat themselves with. It isn’t our responsibility to make other people feel better and it’s not our job to make everyone happy. It’s also impossible.

Joseph Campbell said we should ‘follow our bliss’. We do not need to feel bad for being happy or beautiful, smart, or successful. These things are all our birth right.

Guilt steals our attention. Attention needed for more worthy pursuits.

On some level, we are addicted to our guilt. It is familiar and comforting Click To Tweet

On some level, we are comforted by our guilt. The feeling is as familiar as slipping on an old pair of socks. And whilst it’s okay to reach for the familiar sometimes, it stops personal growth.

Ultimately, guilt – in common with gratitude and forgiveness – are a choice we can make. And awe, wonder and humility feel too awesome not to experience every single day.

How do we forgive?

Forgiveness is difficult to do directly, but is accessible if we make the beneficiary ourselves and not the other person.

One way to view challenging experiences when we have them is that they are offering a contrast from which we can fire off rockets of desire. And the larger the contrasting experience, the more energy behind that rocket.

We know we have forgiven when we approve of every single thing that has happened Click To Tweet

We know we have forgiven when we approve of (not merely accepted) every single thing that has happened, or that we have done. In other words, we can see the gifts of our pain. 

Some people in our lives are to play the ‘villains’ and others the ‘good guys’. But all of them are necessary, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the play.

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The need to forgive originates from the mind, and we cannot fix a problem from the same mind used to create it. Therefore to forgive takes a perspective shift. 

In saying ‘I cannot forgive you’, what you are really saying is ‘I will not free myself up from this emotion that is making me physically and mentally unwell’. As with guilt, failing to forgive keeps us stuck in the past – and out of the realm of possibility and potential.

Failing to forgive others keeps us stuck in the past and out of the realm of potential Click To Tweet

Forgiveness is freedom. And with that freedom comes our only meaningful responsibility: to be living our potentials. You know you have ‘reached’ it by the lack of presence of its opposite in your life, and less suffering.

It is completely possible to forgive anyone for anything, because above all we are worthy of feeling unlimited joy.

What about gratitude?

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An attitude of gratitude is clearly irrelevant of circumstances.

Gratitude often eludes us when are encased in our expectations or feel a sense of self-entitlement.

Our sense of self-entitlement gets in the way of gratitude Click To Tweet

Gratitude is the number one way to connect with our heart’s inner voice. And the more we practice it, the more life gives us to be grateful for.

We are always being supported, in little and large ways, all of the time. 

When we can feel gratitude easily, magic things will start happening in your life (which might be more to do with where you are placing your attention than anything, but still). If it’s getting harder to feel, that’s your emotional guidance system telling you to make a change.

Practicing gratitude is constantly reaching for the slightly better emotion about events Click To Tweet

Connecting with gratitude is an exercise in what we are giving our attention to. And what we are giving our attention to dictates our ability to create lives that are aligned with our deepest desires.

Gratitude is an intellectual process you can apply to every single scenario in your life until it becomes unthinking. And you do it by continually reaching for the slightly better emotion to feel about an event/situation.