Most of us have moments in our past that we regret: times when we were not who we wanted to be and times we acted outside our expectations for how we want to behave. During these times we may have hurt those we love or caused ourselves unwanted pain.
Processing the guilt I carried around was one of the most significant revelations on my life graph this past year. I had buried the memory of a lie I had told a good friend that went on to harm him and others. I had not consciously thought about it for a few years, but that relationship had gone stagnant due to my mistake. As I went through my life graph, that moment came back to me, and I worked through my emotions to realize it was time I forgive myself for that occurrence and seek to make things right with my old friend.
I set up a time to chat with my friend and formally apologized. I let him know how I did not mean to hurt him. He forgave me, and we are now friends again. After forgiving myself and mending the relationship, I learned some valuable lessons about guilt. When we hold onto guilt, it will keep us from our ability to connect with others. The guilt I was carrying created a sense of shame that was keeping me from being my best self.
Guilt is born from a behavior or event that you may regret. Shame is the way you feel about yourself, sometimes because of a feeling of guilt that you haven’t acknowledged. It is essential to clarify the two because they must be dealt with differently.
For me, the lie I had told hindered the relationship with my old friend, but by not dealing with the guilt of that lie, I was subconsciously feeling like a liar. I am not a liar. I hold honesty as one of my core values, but after forgiving myself, I could see I was carrying the shame of being a liar due to that past, isolated event. I now felt free to be close to many other old friends whom I feared saw me as a liar. The guilt of that one lie turned to shame.
There are moments in your yesterday that have caused guilt. In dealing with these moments and forgiving yourself, you will alleviate some of the shame in your identity. Easing that shame will help you more deeply connect with those around you. You are not the product of your mistakes. Forgive yourself, break free from guilt, and heal any shame keeping you from being your best self!