Why are we so consumed with guilt and shame? Why do we love to place blame on other people? It all comes back to the splinter aspect of our mind, that pesky and annoying self-concept we have made called the ego.
The word ego means different things to different people. Some of us say, “wow, that person has a huge ego! What an egocentric person he/she is!” Well, spirituality traditions have much to say about the ego. Some people would argue that you need to have an ego first, in order to transcend it and rise above it. I believe there is some truth to that.
We need to establish healthy boundaries and during our formative years with respect to the developmental life span, we have to develop self-concepts, which just so happen to be temporary time bombs if we would admit the truth about them. They only serve a purpose for so long, until the self-definitions we have of ourselves become worn out. As a Course in Miracles talks about in the later chapters of the nearly 700 page text, we need to put aside our “blown up children’s toys”, transcend the thinking of our childhood, and to put aside “idols” and false self-concepts of ourselves.
Being parented by “Presence” and the “True Self” is a topic in and of itself and we won’t begin to explore that here. What I am trying to say about the ego as it relates to growing up, it is necessary to have a healthy self-concept in order to later discard of false-self concepts as we move into adulthood.
What I wanted to touch on is the topic of guilt. Someone I met with the other day said that they felt guilt was a “useless emotion”. I agree with this almost entirely now, but there was a time when I did not. Raised Roman Catholic, let’s just say, I kept my priest’s in business in how often I visited the confessional, weekly that is many times in my twenties and sometimes more than that. This was before I was a student of A Course In Miracles when I eventually embraced the idea that we make mistakes and errors that are correctable, rather than we/I are/was a terrible “sinner” deserving of punishment and in need of penance and self-denial.
Guilt is primal. It comes from fear. I think back, and dammit, I was scrupulous that’s for sure. I lived in fear that I somehow angered the Divine with each impure thought or unloving deed or behavior I chose to carry out. The punitive ego in me is what was really in the driver’s seat. Its thought system of separation, that comes from the guilt I/we feel from having tried to exist on our own apart from God, when I/we (my ego/the collective ego) decided that God wasn’t satisfying enough and that we had to “one-up” our Source by trying to manifest an alternative reality that really is the product of dreaming. Underneath, I now know that I fear God’s wrath, but accept what I never could in the past – the idea that the Divine Love’s unconditionally and does not condemn and that I really never in reality could be separate in any way from my Origin.
That shadow in the basement called the ego has a sick fascination with guilt. It tries to convince us that we are deserving of punishment from the Divine and so to spare us such imagined pain and suffering, the ego dishes out guilt trips to try and compensate for what it thinks we deserve. It is kind of a way to shield ourselves from the God we feel is a real ‘bastard’ and law-lusting judge. We are our own worst enemy. We cast judgment upon ourselves. God has nothing to do with judging. The ego wants us to believe that God is the one to be feared at all costs and so it uses guilt to try and settle the score. Then it tries to free itself from guilt by blaming others for our unhappiness. It’s a vicious cycle and projection becomes its best friend.
If you are one who tends to feel neurotic guilt over things you decide to do, or even in having a preoccupation with past ‘wrongdoings’, then I am here to tell you that you need to forgive yourself and know that nothing you have seemed to do or say or think is considered ‘sinful’ in any way. You don’t have black marks on your soul. You need but release the guilt and the pain caused by that guilt. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Know that you are innocent and could never be punished eternally. You have probably, if you are like me, have punished yourself enough to last a lifetime. Have mercy on yourself. Errors in our thinking can be undone and healed. Know that. Take comfort in that. Guilt is toxic and it is useless. I’m not saying don’t listen to your conscience, but just go easy on yourself. You are loved. You are innocent. You can make corrections. And you aren’t a ‘sinner’ who will be punished for what you think offended the Divine. That is impossible. Hard to believe yes, but let me assure you, when you embrace this idea, you become free to live a happier life and you stop living as a prisoner to your ego-mind. You are worth it. Love yourself. Have mercy on yourself.