Guilt and Freedom


As I grow older I realize my sense of guilt seems to be leaving me. Many of us may carry around this sense of guilt for a variety of reasons–maybe it was because of the way we raised, maybe it’s our inherit personality type to ‘do the right thing’–but whatever it may be, for me as a younger person–this lurking sense often seemed to be there around the corner.

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The dark window of guilt

For me it was usually intertwined with a sense of responsibility–toward a relationship of some sort, a job or maybe a project. If I had made a committment, then it couldn’t be broken, even if it was killing me in the meantime. So I would stay in a job I hated because I had bills to pay, kids to take care of–and yes, I even felt guilty because of the people there (some of whom I didn’t even like that much) would be put in a bad position if I left! It was nutty.

My stomach would grind, headaches would be daily occurences and life would just feel miserable. Maybe many of you understand how this goes? We just stay put within a marriage, partnership, friendship, career or whatever because this deep sense of guilt or whatever you want to call it–nags at us to do so.

When I would talk to my Mother, she would say: chase the guilt fairy away! Funny coming from a Jewish mother who is suppose to be constantly handing out the guilt. But she was usually reasonable and helpful. Nope, it was me, doing it to myself. Usually (not always mind you) we do these things to ourselves! Because if you think about it: is anyone really holding a gun to our heads making us stay? (Yes, sometimes in an abusive situation someone is–but that’s not what I’m taking about here).

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I’m not guilty at all!!

But there comes a time–at least for me–when it seems we realize: hey, wait a minute, I don’t have to feel bad about this stuff anymore! And just like that a deep sense of peace washes over you and ahead you see: freedom! When we let go of the guilt, there’s freedom of choice and decision making to do whatever we need or want to do with our own lives. Because ulimately, this is the only person we owe anything to: ourselves! I’m not suggesting we should forget all our responsibilites, but we can make decisions about doing what’s best for ourselves at the same time!

Today I heard a term: Radiant Sovereign Self, I believe Margaret Fuller coined it. It’s so lovely and what I want to be. One can’t be this carrying around the burden of guilt. Another beautiful gift I got today was to hear a poem by Mary Oliver.

To me it was about freedom. I share it with you all.

The Journey.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible. It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

cold day 7

 

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24 thoughts on “Guilt and Freedom

  1. So appropriate that you should find Mary Oliver, and this poem in particular. It has been a go to for me for years. So compelling and well spoken. May you continue to learn to let go of guilt and build your beautiful Zen life.🌻💖

    1. I hear she’s a wonderful poet…now I am going to try to get ahold of some of her books!! 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. It came to me at the perfect time as so many things do….

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