Everyone hurts sometimes. Intentionally or otherwise people let us down and depending on the nature of what’s happened we can choose to forgive and forget. But what if you’re the one who’s caused the pain? How do feel and what do you do about it?
Knowing that you have hurt someone can make you feel guilty or worse – shameful. It’s important to distinguish between the two because shame can make you believe that you’re essentially a bad person, whilst guilt can be a positive motivator for change.
‘Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.’ George Soros
I learnt that lesson the hard way. Abandoned by my mother as an infant and brought up by an abusive father I started to self-medicate with alcohol as a teenager. It helped to numb the pain of the past, give me the confidence to face the day and took away my fears of the future. But any benefits I initially experienced with drinking soon disappeared as I became dependent and then addicted.
As with any addiction, guilt and shame became my constant companions. They drove me down the spiral of self-destruct and laid the foundations of my emotional despair. But it wasn’t simply my own pain that I was carrying; it was the pain of those I had harmed along the way.
I hadn’t intended to hurt anyone. I wasn’t a bad person. Yet the reality was that I had offended and let-down those closest to me in pursuit of meeting my needs. Knowing that I was guilty of causing pain to people I loved was harder to bear than any pain I had inflicted on myself. Yet it was guilt that motivated me to confront my actions and make amends.
‘I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.’ Brené Brown
If you feel guilty, then you have an awareness that you have done or failed to do something that has caused someone else upset. Awareness is crucial because you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. It doesn’t matter whether you meant to cause harm or not. It’s how the person perceived it that matters.
Nothing can take away what happened but you can apologize, express remorse and of course determine not to make the same mistakes again. You won’t just be making someone else feel better, but you too will be released from the pain.
It’s never easy to face up to your mistakes. Exposing your vulnerabilities leaves you emotionally raw. Yet it’s only by revealing your imperfections that you are able to identify your strengths. And it’s only by bringing your darkest fears into the light that you can overcome your guilt and shame.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’ Isaiah 1:18
For me the transition from guilt-ridden to guilt-free was made complete through faith. My faith taught me the infinite healing power of forgiving and of being forgiven. Freely given and freely received, it was through forgiveness that I found the courage to share my inadequacies. In doing so I and began to love myself for who I was, not who I had been.
It’s taken me a long time to realize that messing up is okay. Today when I unintentionally do or say things to cause upset, I face the guilt, offer up my remorse and let go of any shame. Being wrong isn’t shameful, but living a life of regret certainly is.
Of course not everyone accepts an apology, and they continue to carry anger and resentment. It can be hard if you have done everything you can to make amends only to be rejected. But remember that whilst you have chosen to take actions to make peace and move forward, they can choose to hate and stay trapped in the past.
On my journey to physical, spiritual and emotional freedom I have come to know that life is too short to be living with hurt when there is healing for hurt. And if you are in pain or have caused the pain of another, remember this:
‘Everyone hurts sometimes, but no-one has to hurt forever.’ theHurtHealer
©Carolyn Hughes – Hurt Healer 2014-09-30
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without prior permission.