Guilt is caused by having a sense of responsibility about something. This could be something we did or didn’t do, or something we imagined we did or didn’t do. By the latter I mean, for example, some children feel guilt over their parents’ divorce, as if they had something to do with it (an imagined sense of responsibility). If we speak up and take responsibility for it immediately then the guilt goes away.
The problem arises when we do not speak up or take responsibility for what we feel responsible for and don’t do anything about it. We hide what we did because we are afraid we will be punished for it, or we are punishing ourselves for it. The fear causes us to hold onto it (not take responsibility), and then the guilt sits and festers over time.
Someone I know has had a life-long issue with holding onto guilt, and feeling guilty about almost everything in her life (real and imagined). We had a conversation about it. I asked her to look at guilt in context, and see that she first developed it around the age of zero to six months of age, and here she is at 60 years old. She is now carrying around 1000 pounds or more of guilt with every step she takes.
The good news is that she did not have to wait another 60 years in order to release that guilt from your life. The instant she sees the truth and speaks the truth of it, guilt disappears. It is like shoveling cow manure that has been sitting for many years. The top layers might be small clumps, but as you get down to the bottom, they are all stuck together so you can remove many years’ worth all at once.
She then saw that when she spoke the truth of whatever she was holding onto and took responsibility for an action or something she said, that guilt was no longer there. Guilt wants to hide under a blanket, but if you pull the blanket off, then the guilt disappears.
There will still be residue, as I call it, the pieces which will linger that need to be seen when they arise. These are possibilities for you to be aware again and release it or get caught in it again. Therefore, it is important to be aware that it will occur and not get drawn into, “Oh, I must not have cleared it, because here it is again.” We live on this planet with things happening all the time, and we will get caught up in things over and over. We can just observe all that as it happens and let it go.
Guilt also includes shame, as they go together. Pride is the opposite of shame and guilt, for if you have pride in something, there is also shame and guilt associated with it. And the justice system in which we live in – “guilty or not guilty” — that is part of this as well, which our whole society is based on. This is also included in the context of fair/unfair and victim which includes blame. Many contexts get intertwined around each other, and then we spend our lives defending and reinforcing these beliefs (all lies) about ourselves.
Beliefs are the things we are holding onto so tightly that we cannot let them go. It is not just our family that we are holding onto, or money or control, or any one thing. It is all of that. The one that holds us the tightest in our insanity is the thing we hold onto the most. The thing you hold onto the tightest is the thing that is most greatly keeping you from being free because it is the thing you are holding onto the tightest.
We think that thing is our life, our “safety net,” and it seems impossible to let that go. It is our parachute (or so we think), yet it is actually the weight that is holding us down. If a bird is sitting on a branch and it wants to fly, it must let go of the branch. It might think that branch is its safety net, and it is; yet it cannot fly without letting it go.