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Friday, October 2, 2015

Offloading your guilt does not mean you are irresponsible

Make an intelligent choice. To forgive. Begin with yourself. Let go of all the resentment within you.

A friend asked me recently if I ever feel guilty over my actions. He was particularly referring to the decisions I made in my Firm which led to its bankruptcy and plunged our family into a grave financial crisis – something that we are still enduring. To be honest, I was, for several months, very, very guilty. My guilt made me angry with myself. Every time I looked into the mirror, I would hate my own sight. But over time I realized that guilt only makes you suffer – it doesn’t allow you to take constructive actions that can help you solve the problems your decisions or choices may have created.

In the 1993 Hollywood action movie Cliffhanger, Gabe, played by Sylvester Stallone, is a mountain rescue team member. When attempting a rescue mission, across from a ledge on a mountain top called The Tower, Gabe is unable to save Sarah, whose harness breaks and she falls 4000 feet to her death. Gabe is unable to forgive himself and vows to never attempt another rescue in his Life. In fact, he gives up climbing. Eight months after Sarah’s funeral, Gabe comes to pick up his belongings from his girlfriend Jessie’s place and asks her if she too will go with him. Jessie is livid and distraught that Gabe’s gone into a shell and is grieving with guilt. She tries to talk to him, invites him to move on while explaining to him that it wasn’t his fault! But Gabe refuses to accept her point of view. In one final, desperate attempt to make him see reason, Jessie screams at him. She says: “If you don’t forgive yourself, let go and move on, you will be on that ledge forever.

Metaphorically, I was on that ledge for a long time. But I soon realized that my guilt is a very selfish, convenient, emotion. I understood that I preferred to grieve with guilt, pretty much like Gabe, because it “felt good” to take the “higher moral ground”. Well to sit on a perch, even if it is made from a mountain of guilt and self-soothing morality, is good for a while. But how long can anyone be up there? And how long can anyone be carrying the burden of a past guilt? At one time or the other, you have to climb down, you have to set down your guilt, free yourself, and move on. If you don’t do that, you will be depressive and will suffer endlessly. And most important, you have to begin to work on your situation. This awakening, that dawned on me, during one of my “mouna” (silence period) sessions, helped me to get off my ledge!

To be sure, however, off-loading guilt does not mean you are irresponsible. It doesn’t mean that you don’t (or won’t) ever feel the guilt. It only means that you are not letting your guilt come in the way of whatever you must do to solve a problem situation. In my own context, even after getting off the ledge, and working hard every single day for over 8 years now, our challenges still persist. So, imagine, what it would be like for us with the added burden of guilt weighing us down? Simply, we would be dysfunctional – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Ask yourself this question: Are you on a “ledge” yourself? If you are, then you will do well to understand this better. Often times, we make Life choices that backfire or even blow up on our face. It’s important we recognize that making mistakes and judgment errors is an integral part of growing up. Unless you forgive yourself for your mistakes, your transgressions, your anger and your ego, you cannot forgive others. And if you don’t forgive others you are a breeding ground of more hatred, more anger, more himsa (violence – violent thought). So, look within. And let all the himsa in you, turn into ahimsanon-violent thought. Get off that “ledge”, learn to forgive, if possible forget, and move on! You, surely, will live happily ever after! 

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