The following is a little … complicated? I apologize. ‘Therapists’ have been dealing with this problem ‘forever’. So do your best to gain a little incite into your own ‘demons’. We all live with a little ‘guilt’ … something we share. That’s comforting.
“Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.” Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. How the fears and penitence of youth stay with us. “Don’t do this; do that!!” No wonder you still have concerns about what is right, what is wrong. Some ‘rules’ are so ingrained that you always have them tickling your conscience. Not a bad thing if certain precepts keep you from hurting yourself or others. “Wash your hands; don’t point a loaded weapon. Don’t lie, steal or cheat. Keep a reign on the ‘beast’ within” … whatever that means.
Greed, covetousness, avarice, lust, adultery, sodomy, sloth, stealing, lying, cheating, addiction, sin, sin, sin … pick your favourite. Have you been guilty of some? Occasionally? Did you feel bad? Did you atone? Good for you. Are you still tempted? Of course. Everyone is. Some thoughts and actions have been roundly condemned throughout history. Why? An offence against God? His law? Maybe an impingement on others? Must keep society peaceful. Perhaps a universal conscience? Could be.
You need ‘order’ to understand what is ‘right’. You depend on labels, symbols, words, to describe an offence. These become rules, laws: Religious, secular or both. You are subject to these. Some you may agree with. Some you may ignore at your peril. But you DO know what is expected. ‘Sins’ are easily understand and laws are published and read.
It is no wonder you feel overwhelmed at times. So many things you should not ‘do’. Your neighbor's spouse, the company’s pens, money no one will miss. On and on. But most of the time you defer. To? Rules, laws, your conscience? You entertain a thought for a moment, a day. Temptation. You say no … and maybe no again … and again if necessary. Or maybe not.
Despite being conscientious, do you still harbor feelings of guilt? Are you plagued by memories of transgressions? Are you still ‘crucifying’ yourself for what you did wrong? Do you live with daily self-recriminations that poke holes in your self-esteem? You ‘wronged’ by a thought, an act or even an omission. “YOU ARE BAD, YOU ARE EVIL, YOU ARE DOOMED.” Or maybe, ‘deep down’, you like the idea of having the power to be ‘bad’. Of course, this can seriously complicate your life.
As is true with excessive worry, feelings of guilt are very self-centered. You may believe that YOU have the power to offend a ‘sensitive’ deity … convinced God is watching and reacts to your ‘transgressions’ or short comings. You may be trying, unsuccessfully, to accommodate authoritarian admonitions and strictures that have rooted solidly in your subconscious. Rules and ‘proper’ behavior inculcated in childhood will tug at your conscience ‘til you die. Not ‘meeting’ high standards or accomplishing lofty goals can frustrate you. You may ‘beat yourself up’ over not doing ‘what is right’ … not doing all you can. Or you may have ‘had enough’, get angry and decide to abandon the berating … do ‘what the hell’ you want. Of course the ‘child’ within will always be murmuring “You are bad,” “You should not have done that!!”
Whatever is causing you to feel guilty remember this: YOU are allowing these harangues to upset you. YOU believe that what you feel, think or do is paramount and YOU are to be castigated for not meeting standards and expectations set just for you. The guilt you SHOULD feel is for your arrogance. What YOU accomplish in life is transitory and, for the most part, of little importance. You CANNOT offend, detract from or diminish the Creator of all things. And though your childhood legacy of ‘proper’ behavior may give you direction and help you feel ‘safe’, it is an arbitrary and fallible guideline.
Following rules has NOTHING to do with your personal growth. You may have been told that murdering is wrong. So what? Is there not ‘something’ in the depth of your being that KNOWS what is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? Of course. Your spirit ALWAYS knows the difference between caring, cultivating positive, just behavior and activity that is selfish, even deleterious. YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW WHEN YOU ARE LOVING AND WHEN YOU ARE NOT. Call this a basic conscience or whatever. It does not matter. What does matter for you is BEING IN THE HABIT OF LOVING. You can never hurt another if you are. Your intentions are noble. Caring for others is what you are about. Yes, you have conflicts, even battles within at times. You may even lose a few. But basically you go back to loving. Always. You have made a commitment to loving which you constantly renew. And you needn’t ever worry about obeying this or that. For you are a loving, growing spirit at peace with all you encounter. Forget about guilt. It is unnecessary and worse, an excuse for using ‘weakness’ as a reason to continue doing what you know you should not. Remain positive and have confidence that you are conscientiously going in the right direction. Know that self-recrimination is self-defeating. It is a waste of energy. It undermines the love you should have for your self … honestly and conscientiously trying to do your best