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From guilt to self-forgiveness – Part 2

We all go through painful, embarrassing and humbling situations in life. Only a few can learn lessons and move on with gratitude. Many, however, carry the trauma for decades and die without making peace with themselves.

Does religion offer a panacea?

Are God worshippers automatically peaceful? Not really!

Little do we realize that it’s our minds or a weak self that we diligently worship, even when we ritualistically visit temples or offer oblations on sacrificial fire. Unless we bring about a conscious attitudinal change, no amount of divine intervention will help. And that attitudinal change means connecting to a source or power beyond our own. If we pray but are full of our small selves, then it’s our mind’s rant that masquerades as prayer. We haven’t entered the spiritual space. If a deep sense of unworthiness gnaws at you, then your prayers won’t work.

Feeling guilt over an action that betrays your values is healthy. It could motivate you to improve. But when there is an existential shame- you are ashamed of who you are- that’s when your self-esteem takes a heavy beating. And that’s also when the motivation to change your behavior reduces drastically. The internal dialogue is: ‘I am no good, and I can’t do anything about it. I am bad…’ Bill Watterson, in his famous Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, put it brilliantly, “There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.”

Externally I may petition God to save me, but subconsciously, if I dislike myself, I may not even want redemption. God helps those who help themselves! At that moment if someone corrects your behavior, you may panic. You do not want to be further shamed, and therefore you protest or vehemently defend yourself. That’s how the mind has cheated you- although you feel sorry and humble, but you are unlikely to improve because you’ve lost confidence as well.

Now, try something different. Forgive yourself, and you’ll see you have an excellent chance to improve.

To be continued…

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