Feeling guilty is good sometimes. It tells us when we have done something hurtful or harmful. Too much of it could be a sign of depression or low self-esteem, but that is not the kind of guilt I am talking about today.
I was feeling guilty recently about some mistakes I have made in my life. Some mistakes are bigger than others.
Some of my biggest mistakes have been in how I have treated others in my relationships. How about you? Have you ever felt guilty about things you have done in the past?
Although I think of myself as a kind and considerate person who tries very hard to abide by the ethical, moral and spiritual principles on which I believe, I have these character flaws that get in the way of my “ideals.” These imperfections have made my life journey crooked.
Lately, this guilt has been focused on mistakes I have made with my female friendships. My girlfriends have always been so important to me! My closest friendships are wonderful, intimate and sustaining connections in my life. However, in my past, there have been a few shadows. I have done things I feel bad about.
They say confession cleans the windows of the soul. Here are some of my confessions:
Middle School Meanness
I had a good friend in middle school, let’s call her Tatiana. She was my best friend. Tatiana dumped me as BFF (Best Friend Forever) for another girl. I was hurt. I was going through a difficult time in my life. My parents had just divorced, I suffered a year-long injury which killed my athletic career, and my beloved dog had disappeared. Not. A. Good. Year.
The break-up happened soon after Tatiana started hanging out with Caroline. Caroline was beautiful, smart, a star athlete and considered the most wonderful girl in the school. Caroline was so kind and lovely that she got an actual medal for being a good citizen/better person than me award (an actual medal!).
I felt super jealous, and I acted out in babyish/middle school ways to get back at Caroline for “stealing” my best friend: I made fun of her behind her back. Once, I made Caroline very upset with a cookie. In gym, I offered her this huge gorgeous chocolate chip cookie. She was so excited! I didn’t tell her until after she had eaten it that I found the cookie under the bleachers (so gross). Everyone laughed. Caroline turned red. I didn’t feel bad at the time.
Regrets In Life
Boy, I wish I had handled that situation differently. I wish I had sat down and told my friend Tatiana how deeply hurt I felt at her leaving my friendship. I wish I had dealt with the feelings of loss going on in my life and not displaced my fear, shame and rage on Caroline.
I have had other friendships that didn’t end well. In my twenties, I had a good friend, whom I adored, who started using drugs. I became more and more enraged at this because I missed her. Instead of telling her how I felt about her being high all the time, we got in a big fight and never spoke again. I felt abandoned and worried about her drug use, but I never told her that.
Summing It Up
12-Step programs are sticklers about being honest with yourself. In addition, they advise that you make a list of people you have harmed and make amends to them. I understand, now that I am older, why they advise this. Guilt, shame and regret get stored within us even when we aren’t aware of it. When we forgive ourselves (and sometimes make amends), we unbind ourselves from some of this difficult shame energy that lives deep down inside. Everyone has this “stuff” locked up somewhere, unless you clean it out.
Ever heard the motto: We hurt those that mean the most to us? There’s a reason it’s a motto! Because it happens.
Everyone has things within them that they regret or feel bad about. Forgiving ourselves is a powerful healer. Afterward, we realize the lessons we’ve learned and move forward with a commitment to do better. I wish I had known better back then. I know better now.
Do you have any regrets about how you have treated others in your past? Share them with us. Share what you learned.
About the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, is author of Stop Giving It Away, available in print and ebook. She leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook page and/or subscribing for updates on my blog. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus.