I recently saw a notice about a Transforming Guilt workshop at a nearby yoga studio and I’ve given the topic some thought. Guilt has rarely been an much of an obstacle or even particularly troubling for me. Whenever I’ve become aware that I’ve committed a wrongdoing, any guilt or remorse associated with it has been short lived. I figure out my mistake, learn from it and move on.
One notable exception was the infamous 02-02-02 incident. The actions leading up to it and their consequences left me remorseful and guilt-ridden for several years. I was in Hell during that time. I did penance, I tried to learn everything I could on how to prevent repeating the behavior and took whatever actions I felt were necessary to make things right and to gain forgiveness. I was constantly beating myself up psychologically and emotionally. I was depressed. I was miserable.
Then one day I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that I had created my Hell. I reasoned that since I had created my Hell, I had the key to its gates and I could leave it at any time. I realized that I alone had been holding myself prisoner there and I needed no one’s permission to leave. I determined that I could remove the chains holding me there and leave behind the guilt and the rest of the emotional baggage. I could take what I had learned and make a fresh start.
I realized that my pardon did not depend on anyone’s forgiveness except my own. It was up to me to grant my own pardon. I had to forgive myself because I had no reason to expect it from anyone else. If anyone forgave me then it would be for their own reasons, as part of their healing process.
Forgiveness primarily benefits the forgiver, not the forgiven, although they may also benefit. When we forgive ourselves we make a commitment to make amends and to not repeat the harmful behavior. When we forgive others, we exhibit love and compassion for them. However, forgiveness must be given freely and when we are ready to give it. To ask forgiveness is a selfish act. When you ask to be forgiven you are asking the one you have wronged to excuse your behavior, to bolster your ego, and to give youself power over them.
Note: The Transforming Guilt workshop was postponed but I plan to attend. I’ve taken several workshops with the instructor leading it and they have always been interesting and worthwhile.