I have found Guilt makes a tricky bedfellow. Sometimes Guilt can be that helpful niggling in the heart and mind that forces me to really analyze who I am, what I’m doing, and make stronger choices. She reminds me of the apology I keep putting off, or pushes me toward that act of kindness I’ve known I’ve needed to do. Guilt is close friends with Compassion and Responsiveness, and she reminds me to include them in my process.
But Guilt is but one of three sisters. And when she brings her sisters – Shame and Regret – to the party, things always go sour. Shame, with her pinched up face and severe line of a mouth, has a nasty habit of dragging you into the corner for a long-winded conversation about the many ways you’ve let everyone down. She tends to invite her best friend, Judgment, into the conversation, who always seems so perfect, and you can’t help but leave their presence feeling very small and discardable.
Then Regret makes a beeline in your direction, ready to commiserate with you on all your feelings of inadequacy. She looks painfully sad all the time, and just being in her presence seems to suck everything good and beautiful right out of you. She likes to dwell on the past and seldom makes time to talk about anything else.
I have learned when Guilt invites her sisters into the conversation, it’s best for me to thank her for her time and quickly exit the room. It’s not that I don’t need Guilt from time to time in my life. She can be a very helpful friend, but she has been known to get me into trouble a time or two.
I always look around after these discouraging conversations for Compassion and Responsiveness. I usually find them hanging outside with Grace and Mercy on the flower-covered deck admiring the stars. Those four always make me smile, even when I feel my absolute lowest. Compassion always greets me with a warm hug and an emphatic smile. Responsiveness encourages me to share what I’m feeling and to find positive solutions to my challenges. Grace reminds me I’m special and loved no matter what, and Mercy always seems to jump in at just the right moment with another big hug and a timely reminder of the strengths of my humanity. She gently reminds me of how important it is to forgive myself and others. They’re a dynamic group! Just being with them inspires me to be my best.
And when I head home after these encounters, despite the emotional roller coaster ride it can sometimes be, I’m still glad I came to the party. After all, no one can appreciate all that Grace and her friends have to offer without having spent a little time with Shame and Regret. Someday, I hope to have the strength to handle those two ladies a little more proactively. In the meanwhile, Mercy reminds me my soft heartedness and kindness are part of what make me the lovely person she sees me to be.
For Further Thought: What qualities need to have a bigger presence in your life? What can you do this week to invite them in for a while?