Living with feelings of guilt and/or shame is not uncommon. However, it’s also not healthy. If you’re someone living with these feelings, you may already be thinking “I deserve to feel this way.” However, it’s this way of thinking that can keep us locked into a never-ending circle. You may now be thinking “but you don’t understand, what I did was too terrible to forgive.” That is your guilt and shame talking, and it’s time to move forward.
Guilt and shame can keep us locked up, even if you’ve already served a sentence in jail or prison. If you’re still being held back by guilt and shame, you’re serving time. One thing we all need to understand in moving forward is that not one person is perfect. Sure, there are those who might look perfect on the outside, they might seem like they have it all together. Maybe they’re married, have a successful job and two happy kids. But nothing is perfect, even if it looks like it on the outside. Every person has struggles that they need to work through, everyone has done things they wish they hadn’t. It’s important to understand this because you need to know that you’re not perfect, just like everyone else, and that’s OK.
You may have done terrible things. But, as Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist stated in her article on Psychology Today,
“If you have learned from your mistake, and do not wish to repeat it, then you no longer need to feel guilt or shame about it. Forgive yourself and let it go.”
This is, of course, easier said than done. It can take time to work through these issues. While guilt can remind you to never do certain things again, living in a cycle of shame can hinder your growth. Basically, we should feel remorse for our wrongful actions and want to change, but we should also not let that guilt fester. When shame takes over it can be very harmful to us, hindering our self-worth and our ability to become a better person. We need to find a way to move past the hurt that we’ve caused and find a way to forgive ourselves.
There may be a few stages to this. You may need to work through your feelings in a journal, talk with a therapist about what you’re going through and/or pray to a higher power. The important thing is to recognize what you’re feeling, be honest with yourself and willing to work on these painful feelings. Finding self-forgiveness can help you thrive. This not only benefits you but the people around you. As a person relieved of these shameful feelings, you can develop better-coping mechanisms and new ways to live. You can heal, making it less likely for you to harm yourself or others.
If you’re struggling with these feelings. Take steps today to move forward and grab hold of your second chance. Don’t let shame tell you that you don’t deserve this, instead get ready to work through these feelings and past actions so you can truly move forward.
[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]