I think guilt “feels” differently for each of us.  I’m not certain how to describe this feeling, but seldom, if ever, does it overpower me.

Yesterday I purchased a few items at one of my favorite health food stores.  When I checked out the clerk asked, “Would you like to donate a $1.00 to a charity: The prevention of child abuse.”  I said, “No.”  Then he said, “You’re so mean.”  Now, I knew that he was kidding, and his “persuasive” technique still didn’t move me to say, “Okay, I’ll give a dollar.”  The woman next to me also said, “No.”  I didn’t then, nor now, feel guilty about saying “no.”  Some people might. I know that certain words, looks and/or scripts help get donations; it’s an art to ask  for and get donations.

A young man came to my door last week: #1. He talked so fast I couldn’t understand him.   #2.  Had the persuasion technique and the conviction of  purpose of a peanut shell; nothing.  #3. Obviously had a script he’d memorized.  I didn’t buy it.  He asked again if I’d just like to donate to the charity, not necessarily help him in his quest for whatever it was he was “questing.” (I don’t think that’s the right word.)  Again, “No.” 

I donate to the charities of my choice and volunteer at the non-profits of my choice.  Don’t you?  Rocky Mountain PBS is conducting a fund drive and I volunteer for their phone banks.  The phones – this morning – didn’t ring and ring and ring.  The silence was deafening!  Sad.  But the PBS employee on the television did an outstanding job of giving the viewers information about the membership drive and the gifts for $150, $120, and $60.  I give time, not money, to PBS.  Why?  I don’t know.  I don’t feel guilty about not giving money; they have me!  My time is money. Yes?

Guilt is driven by something done with regret or something not done with regret.  To me it’s a waste of energy.  There’s nothing I can do about my actions once I’ve done them.  If I hurt someone’s feelings, I apologize and hope that I’ve made amends.  But if the guilt comes from something frivolous, then I know it’s a waste:  eaten something  that has 2000 calories and goes directly to my hips or waist line within minutes and didn’t ask permission, spent money on something nonsensical, read a book instead of working on my next project; the list goes on. Why feel guilty? I can’t change those actions!   How about the times you slept in and didn’t go to the gym, or met a friend or colleague for a glass of wine after work instead of going to yoga or working out?  You probably just said, “tomorrow.” We do survive.

I’m not Catholic, never have been.  I feel that religion is the biggest suitcase of guilt.  It pounds into that you “should” do or not do, and I can’t abide by that.  But that’s me.

What guilt are you still carrying around with you that prevents you from escaping the incident?  How much guilt wins you the lottery?  How much guilt-laden energy and thought mount up clouding reality?  Wash it out of your soul and mind; You’ll feel like you’d just gone on the SlimFast diet and lost 50 lbs.  Wow, what a relief.

I know a few people who wear guilt like a gold lame gown or tux and don’t even realize that it’s blinding them and us.  It may not be easy to take off and discard, but it is worth the effort to take it off and refuse to wear it daily, then weekly, then…you get the exercise.

Saying “no,” is a toughy.  “If I say ‘no’ to my child, s/he’ll feel neglected, abused, rejected….”  Name the other feeling.  “If I say ‘no I can’t work late’ to my boss, then s/he may think I don’t respect him/her or value the job.”  Think of the “no’s” that you wanted to say, but felt guilty and did it anyway.  Did you volunteer for that committee and regret it?  Did you say “yes” to help with something that you knew was going to be too time consuming?  When you respect “no,” and live up to your standards, commitments and values when you say it, it comes easier to say.

Now, I’m not recommending that you say “no” to your boss, manager, supervisor or  team member just for fun. I want you to understand not only its value, but also its purpose.

Fling that guilt into the garbage disposal with relish.  Let it go.  Understand your motives for guilt-ridden actions, and if they’re not healthy, then toss them.  When guilt comes along for an hour or two, fine – feel it and then release it.  Carrying it around for even days, much less years, seems as though you don’t respect who you are, and I know you do.

So long guilt, it’s been fun.  I hope we don’t meet again.


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