Guilt is an ego indulgence and can lead to self-pity. Personal guilt is usually about something we did which we believe we shouldn’t have done, or something we should have done which we didn’t do. As we discussed in the chapter on acceptance we cannot change what has passed, so we must learn to accept what is. If we feel guilt about our actions or inactions then we will most likely also have anger – anger at ourselves for what we did or didn’t do and anger at other people or the world for creating the situation in the first place, which in turn to can lead to blame. Guilt also implies that we have made a judgement about what happened. So we can see that wrapped up within guilt are many of the vices we mentioned previously. The antidotes to these vices are the cultivation qualities of acceptance, non-judgement, releasing and channelling the energy of anger and taking responsibility for our own lives. Much of our spiritual development is like this: one vice leads to another and one cultivation quality leads to another.

Collective guilt

If you feel guilty on behalf of your culture because of wrongdoing that has been committed towards other cultures, you are identifying with your culture. Unless you personally did wrong then why assume guilt because you happen to live in a particular culture?

If you are going to say that “I and my culture are one” then why not say “I and all humanity are one”? If you are one with all humanity then any wrongdoing towards another culture is a wrongdoing towards you. In which case why should guilt be any more relevant an emotion than anger?

Similarly if you assume guilt on behalf of mankind for man’s treatment of the planet, you are identifying yourself with humanity. Again, why say “I and all humanity are one” and not “I and all life on the planet are one”?

If we see all life as one then any wrongdoing was done equally by you as to you, in which case what is the use in having an emotion about it? What use is anger or guilt?

Learn to replace guilt with responsibility. If a situation presents itself to you, you have a responsibility to deal with it as best you can.

Next Chapter: Pride >>

*** This chapter is taken from my book The Light Within ***