The Power of Guilt and Love

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It seems that this topic keeps filtering back to the light of day so I suppose it is time to collect my thoughts and address it. In a conversations today I was talking with a friend about the burden of guilt, which has actually be the topic of many thoughts as of late. She said, “I always thought that guilt was something one chose to carry–sometimes rightfully, sometimes not.”  I view it as something quite differently.

I think guilt is our soul speaking, and we can choose to offer it up for forgiveness and absolution or we can turn it into shame and carry it as a heavy stone but that is our choice. It takes time to work through, to decide what we do, and of course it is never a single permanent answer, for at some points we may prefer to punish ourselves with the burden of shame, or with the attempt to seek forgiveness, we may be denied so it may be something in flux for some time. With the contemplations on guilt and shame I came to realize it is in some ways like love where we need to make an active choice to take a change and hand all our power to protect ourselves over to another.

I have journaled about the power of love and how it is different than the statement implies, my reflections are based in some thoughts I had on a quote “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.”(Mahatma Gandhi) After using this in a previous blog, it seemed to have inspired some thinking on my part. I found it interesting because it is so true, power is based in both fear and love. Having lived with fear for many years, the power is based in the person creating the fear. Through intimidation, manipulation, anger, and hostility fear created power for themselves. Yet the act of selfless unconditional love can create a power of greater strength and ferocity then fear ever could. The power created by love is very different because it is wielded not by the one loving, but by the loved. The simple act of loving someone, standing bare before them and offering the deepest part of your soul gives them the power to be their true self, to walk confidently in the world knowing regardless of what they encounter, they are valued above all else for who they are. I have given them the power to be courageous in the world. This also creates a great vulnerability within yourself.

Finding the courage to stand before one you have wronged and be vulnerable enough to share your guilt you are again handing over your control to someone else to offer forgiveness or not. I do not mean the flip apology but the one based in sincere self-reflection, the one that speaks of the guilt from your soul. The courage it takes to confess your soul leaves you with no shield with which to protect yourself. Yet if this act is done and there is exoneration in return, you are freed from the weight of guilt and released for the potential of shame.

Standing bare, being vulnerable is the most intimate of relationship, between one and self or one and another. Without vulnerability all we have is isolation. The vulnerability that comes with the offering of the apology has such power too.  It gives you the power to speak your truth, to renew your soul and to heal your heart.  The humble but courageous act of loving, being vulnerable, confessing guilt, or offering forgiveness are at the foundation of our being. It is at the basis of many faiths, simply put love as you are loved, forgive as you are seeking forgiveness.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brené Brown

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