Bringing Guilt to Forgiveness
My former veterinarian–the one who helped my two pugs cross the Bridge–was in the dream. That’s all I remember.
When I woke from the dream, I immediately began to think about my elderly cat, Samantha, and how I wasn’t there for her when the time came to put her to sleep. I had already moved to Texas.
I hadn’t thought about Samantha in quite some time but once I did, old feelings of guilt flooded over me. My mind went immediately back to that time, to decisions I made, to the people involved and to hurtful things that were said to me. Lying in my bed, fresh from the dream, I traversed back in time to guilty feelings in about 4.5 seconds.
Have you ever had a gut-wrenching moment when you’re sucked back into old drama and all its attending emotions? When I experience those times–rarely, thankfully–I become the person I was then. As I replay the memory and suffer through the agony again, one question generally rises above the rest of the guilt-ridden mental chatter.
“I wonder if they still think badly of me for what I did?”
Then, “I wonder if they’ve forgiven me?”
Regardless of whether they do, by merely asking the question of myself, I’ve announced to the Universe that I believe I’m still guilty.
Bring guilt to forgiveness
When you think about it, any present guilt you feel is a byproduct of something that has happened in the past. My ego loves guilt because it can keep a toe-hold on my past supposedly for my benefit.
After spending time journaling about the dream and the ideas of guilt and forgiveness, I realized that my ego is not doing me any favors. In fact, by fist-clutching guilt, I’m unable to freely live in the present moment. I don’t know about you, but I really detest throwing precious Now moments away!
I decided, with the aid of A Course in Miracles, a couple of girlfriends and dedicated contemplation/meditation, to bring those guilt feelings to forgiveness. You see, I realized an ugly truth: I live with the notion that I have to be forgiven by others before I can forgive myself.
Wow. That feels like a really big realization. I’ll say it again.
I live with the notion that I have to be forgiven by others before I can forgive myself.
My God! Where in the world did I come up with that misguided idea?
I believe I’m afraid to let go, to pick up my toe from the past and plant both feel squarely in the Now. After all, letting go of guilt and stepping into forgiveness means releasing the old and familiar, messed up though it may be.
In this case, however, my desire for God’s peace overrides fear. It just has to. I suspect it will take a lot of concentrated effort, but don’t you think the results–freedom from guilt–will be worth it?
Marianne Williamson writes in A Return to Love, one of my all-time favorite books, that few of us succeed but making the effort to forgive is our most noble calling.
She also writes that “the practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
What are your thoughts on guilt and forgiveness? Is forgiveness from someone else necessary or is forgiving yourself all that really matters?
Photo courtesy of hibbard