For the last several years I could tell that my eyesight was getting worse. Road signs were getting closer before I could read them. I knew the Department of Transportation wasn’t responsible for that. Three years ago I renewed my driver’s license and I had to guess at the last two lines of the eye exam. The DMV employee wasn’t paying attention to my answers and I slipped through the crack provided by a lazy employee of the state. I knew my sight was getting worse but I didn’t want to have to start dealing with the hassle of wearing glasses or contacts. I ignored my problem.
All too often whenever I’m experiencing the feeling of guilt for having made a mistake or for having even willingly done something that I know is counter to my own good and the good of others, I immediately try to ‘sorry’ myself to death. I go into this spiral of repentance and trying to figure out how I’m going to make up for whatever mistake I made or whatever penitence I need to pay. I can become so determined to get rid of the bad feeling and remorse so quickly that often times I don’t actually allow myself to feel what I naturally NEED to feel in order to process the situation.
I’ve written and spoken many times about our need to NOT hide from the emotions we are feeling, negative or positive, but to embrace them. To allow them to hit us with their full force. This does several things that raise the quality of our lives.
One, it allows us to experience life fully, in the moment. When we hide or run from our emotions and feelings, or spend our time trying to work around them, we are cheating ourselves from the opportunity to know what it is to be human. To know what it is to feel in the center of our being. Remember, we cannot mitigate our negative feelings without mitigating our positive ones as well. So to the level with which we don’t allow ourselves to feel disappointment, anger, or sadness, we also negate the ability to feel love, joy, or satisfaction to that same level. This my friends, will lead to a very one dimensional, flat-lined life. Feel it!
Two, it allows you to be as truly sorry or repentant as you need to be. Let’s say you have made a mistake that has actually hurt somebody emotionally or even physically. Or maybe just hurt yourself emotionally or physically. If you try to skip over the remorse and get right to the apology, it will be empty. You’ll know it and they will know it. But if you allow yourself to completely feel the remorse until you realize the extent to which you are sorry, your apology and how you make up for it will absolutely be genuine, authentic, and enough. However, we must walk the fine line between shaming ourselves (this is bad) and truly allowing the feelings to run their course. Don’t shame yourself to try to feel worse or talk yourself into feeling better. Just sit back, be aware, and experience what you are feeling.
Maybe you will realize that you aren’t sorry and that even though you thought you should feel bad, you don’t. Or maybe you will realize that even though no one else thinks you did anything wrong, you are aware that you crossed a line within your own moral code.
Third and finally, embracing our emotions allows us the chance to take advantage of the opportunity to love ourselves. What? If you are having some feelings of remorse or regret, you are immediately facing an opportunity to not only allow those feelings to hit you, but to remind yourself in tangible ways, that even though you made a mistake and hurt yourself or someone else, you still love yourself and accept yourself just the way you are. And I’m serious about this one. Why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to love yourself and care for yourself?
After embracing your feeling of guilt and owning it, and you've been careful not to ride the wave of shame, then you are in a great place to move forward. Maybe it's an apology. Maybe it's not. Maybe you're sorry. Maybe you're not. What is it that you're feeling? That will determine your way forward. Truly and in an authentic way.
"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy." ~Jim Rohn