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Letting Go of Unnecessary Guilt

Updated on February 28, 2012

Guilt is good in some ways. It is what keeps us on the right track and makes us generally do the “right” thing most of the time. We feel guilty when we don’t fulfill our obligations, snap at someone for a small infraction or disappoint our family members.

However, there is a downside to all that guilt. We sometimes punish ourselves over and over with feelings of guilt to the point that it weighs us down, keeps us awake and prevents us from moving forward with our lives. If you are feeling excessively guilty over small things or all your behaviors are controlled and dictated by the fear of guilt, you just might need to let go. If you have guilt that holds you back and prevents you from enjoying your life, it is unnecessary guilt and it is definitely time to let go.

The Weight of Guilt


How to Leave Your Guilt Behind . . .

  • Get real with yourself. Keep your perspective and forgive yourself for the small stuff. Many of us feel guilty over minor situations that are simply not worth it. Did you kill someone, run him/her over with your car or slam the door on someone’s hand? No, well why are you feeling so guilty? What were your intentions? Did you do something wrong on purpose or by accident? Think about your situation and analyze and understand your true intentions. Not all situations are equal or deserve equal amounts of guilt.
  • Accept responsibility for your behavior and the consequences of your behavior. We have all done something wrong in our lives. Admit your wrongs, apologize to those that matter to you, forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes ~ that is all you can do. Then, move on. Holding onto regrets and negative feelings adds nothing to your life. Constant punishment just prevents you from moving forward. Our pasts are full of lessons and learned experiences that can been seen as positive events that make us grow and become our best.
  • Be true to you. We can all spend our entire lives with the “could have, would have and should have” attitude and never measure up to our strict ideas of what is expected or those expectations set by others. Instead, do and live with the values that are right for you. Get to know yourself and develop your own value system and follow those values, as opposed to worrying about the “should haves” of others. Once you are following your own values of what is right for you, a lot of your feelings of guilt will go by the wayside. It is hard to live up to the expectations of others, especially if they don’t embrass your own ideas of what is important.

A certain amount of guilt is alright. However, constantly beating yourself up over past mistakes can be really debilitating to your quality of life and hold you back from fulfilling your goals and appreciating and loving the people in your life. Learning to let go of guilt and leaving the "should haves" behind you can help you live in the moment and get the most out of your life.


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      As you say, some guilt is useful in keeping us honest and real. I totally agree with your advice in accepting responsbility for behavior. This seems to be how most people avoid mending a relationship. They don't mention the guilt issue and things just get worse. Great topic and good coverage!

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Great point about the physical impact of guilt. Thanks Amy!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Great article that is relevant to most of us. For my physical health, I have found if beneficial to let go of what I can't change, learn what I can from what caused my feelings of guilt and vow to do better. Guilt is only helpful when we learn from it. Otherwise, it only serves to deepen depression, create physical illness and keep us stuck. Thank you for your well-written, inspiring, helpful piece.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      FloraBreenRobinson ~ it does take a long time. Unnecessary guilt is a bad habit that is hard to break.

      DzyMsLizzy ~ i know so many people who have gone through what you described. They feel so guilty about a situation that was so beyond their control. What happened is in no way your fault, and I am glad you see that now and are free from those feelings. Some people never see the light and punish themselves over and over. Their loved ones would want them to live their life and have a good life. Thanks for your story ~ it will help others.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

      OMG--did you write this for me?

      My father died in 1976, just a few months shy of his 79th birthday, and a day shy of my youngest daughter's 5th birthday.

      We were having her celebration a day early, to be on the weekend, and dad was not feeling well--said it was 'just indigestion,' and 'bring me a piece of birthday cake,' and urged my mom and I to go ahead to my house for the mini-"party" (just family). So, we went.

      When we got home, dad was gone--he'd apparently suffered a massive heart attack. Do you know how many YEARS I kicked myself over and over for not staying, calling the doctor, taking him to the ER, or what-have-you? And how hard I kicked myself for not being I had JUST COMPLETED a course in CPR. At the time, I was "sure" that if I'd only stayed, and not been concerned with taking mom for birthday cake, I could have saved him.

      It took me at LEAST 10 years to let go of that!!!

      You are so does you no good; you can never change what happened; so move past it, already!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      Thanks for this great article. It took a lot of time for me to get over unnecessary guilt. Years, in fact..