The Power of Guilt

6 Jan

From 2000 to 2007, I was a student in Cuba. It was very challenging for many reasons. But the most challenging of them all was controlling my inner-temper while lining up for a bus. Let me explain: I’d get to the bus stop with only two people in front of me, then when the bus came, dozens of people would come out from nowhere and get in the bus before me. Just as it would be my turn to enter, the driver would say, « Ya » and close the door. What happened? Well, the two people in front of me kept spaces for their friends. It was an accepted practice which seemed to be embedded into their culture.

I used to get so angry because I was often late for class. We did have buses at the dorms but the same thing would happen: friends would guard spaces for their friends, who would come out the building at the last minute and make it in the bus before me!

I hated this so much that it affected my attitude; and yes, I called quite a few people « idiota » and « estUpida ». I sucked every tooth in my mouth and also tried to roll my eyes out of my hot head.

As a result of my bad attitude towards this cultural experience, I felt burdened. Negative feelings weighed heavily on me and I couldn’t seem to shake them off.

One day, after leaving a friend’s home, I paused at the nearby pharmacy and began to reflect on my feelings. Why was I feeling this way? Why couldn’t I seem to shake them off? Then it hit me. It was guilt! This feeling was more powerful than the act that caused it in the first place. I then told God how I felt and how sorry I was. I forgave myself and accepted His forgiveness, then I brushed my left shoulder off as a tangible sign to myself that I was moving on.

When I identified the problem, I remembered this verse:

« But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth onto those things which are before. » Philippians 3:13

I was condemning myself and was unforgiving. I was rejecting the forgiveness of God.

This may sound silly to you. But this was my spiritual dilemma at the time. I’ve since had to beat back guilt on parenting strategies and in other areas as well, but knowing the culprit helped me to push forward.

What about you? What have you done that has caused you immense guilt? Don’t compare it to mine. Sin is sin, and guilt is guilt. Don’t let them hijack you forever. Let guilt do its job, which is to provide that stepping stone to repentance which leads to forgiveness. If we confess what we feel guilty about, God will forgive us. Accept this forgiveness and move on. Keep growing in Christ and kick guilt to the curb.

4 Responses to “The Power of Guilt”

  1. sbwheeler January 6, 2021 at 6:32 pm #

    We like to think we are “in control” and it comes as a nasty shock when we see that we don’t even know the rules of the game. All of our predictions, which are the basis of our illusion of control, get undermined in a moment. And we realise we cannot make any valid predictions until we understand more. Your “realisation” of the cultural practice of “holding a place” for your mates was your eye-opener. And the reason you got angry was [I suggest] because you felt cheated by a practice that it seemed everyone knew but you. You felt angry with yourself for not checking and therefore not knowing. But how could you have known? If you go back to that memory, with the idea that you could not have known, you may see a different emotion playing out. There’s no guilt in not knowing – even if in hindsight we think we “could have known”. To go back and be a different person is not possible. And once we see that we tried to do exactly that, we’ll see many other times in our lives when we did the same. Give thanks for what is, or was, and don’t fret over what you think “might have been” (but really couldn’t). Even regret that we could have learned something earlier than we did is rather pointless. For me, realising that we can’t go back – that we can’t be different – has helped me to come to terms with myself and to forgive others who I blamed (unwittingly and improperly) for my own, accidental state.

    • Zelinda January 9, 2021 at 8:38 pm #

      Hi Sbwheeler. I appreciate your thoughts. Unfortunately, this was an issue that I dealt with for a long time. My friends called me « too sensitive », but it was my struggle. There was no one condemning me, it was just myself. It wasn’t really about not knowing, rather, my thinking the practice unfair. I remember feeling very uncomfortable when friends asked me to put them in front, or them offering to put me! On another note, I like to keep my composure, especially with things beyond my control. So the post was more about me letting go, and as you You wrote, (hope I understood correctly), accepting the past and moving on. My guilt was how I handled the circumstances. Hey, I know that I could’ve gotten to the busses earlier. Arriving late was part of the issue, and I had control over that. All in all, Cuba was stressful for me, (not saying it was a bad place), it was indeed a culture shock, but, it was one that I am grateful for.

      • sbwheeler January 10, 2021 at 8:18 am #

        I have been to and worked in many countries. Coming from England, where orderly queuing is almost part of the culture, I certainly recognise the feeling of unfairness that you mention. In Paris, for example, when the trains get full at rush hour, it’s every man, woman and child for himself (or herself), pushing to get on – even crushing those inside. And there are now guards to try to stop this, as there are injuries. I dislike crowds anyway and I found it hard to deal with the alternative of waiting for an hour – until the rush diminished – before I could get on a train without joining the squash. In Korea, too, I found queuing to be rather random. These experiences helped me to see that different cultures have different views of what is “fair”, and eventually I found that I could adapt myself, even if I didn’t join the locals.

      • Zelinda January 10, 2021 at 7:51 pm #

        Sent from my iPhone


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