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Absolutely nothing. Okay maybe there are some benefits to guilt. If we didn’t have guilt for wrongdoings, we might be sociopaths, criminals or inhuman. Guilt’s function is to direct us to a higher path.

Having said that, I do believe we sometimes allow the G-word to get away with too much.

Guilt has no purpose in life other than to guide us. It’s not there to hamper our decisions, to make us feel bad, to make others feel bad or to let us off the hook. If you’re late and you tell a friend that you feel bad or you make a mistake at work and you tell your boss that you feel bad, you’re probably doing it to remove yourself from responsibility. Yes, you might really feel terrible that you’ve put a burden on someone else, but unless you’re willing to apologize or make changes to prevent it from happening again, you’re probably just using the G to get yourself off the hook.

And if you were being honest with yourself, you may even realize that your consistent lateness to work or your continual absence at the gym are pointing something else out. Guilt’s just getting in the way of you seeing that. When we take guilt away from the equation, we might see that there’s something you don’t want to deal with. Maybe you hate your job, your dance class or don’t enjoy hanging out with your friend. It’s only when you address what the real problem is instead of hiding behind guilt that you’ll get to the root of the problem.

There’s also the guilt that comes with feeling judged. You know when you’ve gained weight and feel you should be exercising, but you’re sick, tired or just need a break? Or you find yourself indulging in a piece of cake or in a beautiful blouse. Maybe you truly deserve these things, but you spend all your joy feeling guilty. Not only are you unable to eat your cake, but you’re unable to enjoy it too.

Why Do We Suffer From So Much Guilt?

What’s wrong with speaking our minds, expressing ourselves, indulging in pleasure, taking time out to rest and relax? Where did the guilt come from and why do we have so much of it?

When did enjoying our lives become something we should be ashamed of? {Ever notice how chocolate commercials are always about cheating or eating in secret? Hence, the term “guilty pleasure.”}

I’m not sure. To me, it’s often become an automatic response. If I take a break, I’m lazy. If I eat ice-cream, I’m a pig. If I make a mistake, I’m a horrible writer. I decided recently to stop with the negative self-statements. And it started with understanding its purpose in my life.

For me, part of the function guilt has played on my life is to remove me from the responsibility of making a decision. If I feel guilty about what I did, then it feels less horrible to do it. Feeling bad gave me an out. It’s not until I took ownership of my decisions-understanding the consequences of what I chose-that I began to negate guilt’s power over my life.

For example, I recently had a choice between pleasing a person or myself. If I chose the latter, there was a chance this person wouldn’t like me and think I’m selfish. If I decided to go with the former, I would be abandoning myself. Previously, I wasn’t even conscious of this choice, I would always, always go with making someone else happy. It’s not that I enjoyed being a martyr, but that I wanted to prevent the stream of guilty thoughts that would follow if I chose myself.

It takes more work to let go of guilt especially if it’s become a habit in your life. But once you begin to say, “It’s okay that I’m not perfect or make perfect decisions every time,” something beautiful happens.

Your life opens up.

In making choices to take care of your needs, you’re more conscious, compassionate and understanding towards others. Somewhere in the process, you remember yourself. And in doing so, you’re not so resentful in helping others or lending them a non-judgmental ear. You say to yourself, “Hey, I’m human. I make mistakes. But I still love who I am and what I do.” And when we can say that truly and honestly, we open the door to sincerely say and mean that to others.

Living a guilt-free life does that to you…

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