Guilt (noun): the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law.
The definition of guilt implies something someone actually did wrong; it is a factual state proven by evidence. More recently it seems to have become an emotion eg. “I feel guilty for saying that”, but the words “ashamed” or “embarrassed” seem more fitting to describe these emotions (“I’m embarrassed that I upset you by saying that”). I have had a self destructive relationship with Guilt; perpetually feeling like I had done something wrong and needed to be punished for it. By shifting the language I use and wording my apologies this way I still acknowledge the other person’s feelings but I don’t admit (or keep myself accountable) to actually doing something wrong.
This is why I believe that you can have forgiveness without guilt.
You could not in fact be guilty of anything but still need to give forgiveness to yourself. You may not have any proof of someone’s guilt but still offer forgiveness within yourself to move on with your life. You could gift someone forgiveness by holding space for them, hearing their stories and telling them they were right in feeling the way they did (sound familiar?).
If I could gift myself a little box of forgiveness I would use it to forgive myself for the mess I contributed to in 2013; getting married to a guy who wasn’t right for me.
For being naive, blinded by romance and not seeing that fact sooner.
I am not guilty for being young and inexperienced or believing the words of someone who loved me, but I forgive myself anyway. I feel embarrassed when I reflect on that time and how caught up I was in the fairy-tale; for romanticising my life and my future with him.
Just yesterday in fact I finally paid off my wedding dress and it was sitting on my bed fresh out of the dry cleaners when I arrived home last night.
I felt a weight lift off my mind – I finally had this piece of my own personal history (herstory?) back in my possession. A piece that I designed myself in collaboration with the women in my family (which seems like quite a juxtaposition from my last writing). At the time my mum was going through a divorce with my father and during the creation of the dress she sought forgiveness by sharing stories of our time together as a family.
I could tell that she felt guilty but there was no actual guilt… just a couple of adults who had done the best they could and a relationship that had run its course.
The dress was created with the intention of it being a family heirloom. My designer incorporated pieces of jewelry and fabric from wedding dresses donated by the women in my family into the embellishments on the front.
I forgive and absolve myself from the cost of the dress and the emotional labour.
I offer myself understanding of the attitude towards marriage I have held since.
I swore to myself that I would never commit myself to another person like that, that I would never wear that dress again but I will; I give my future self permission to seek that, to wear the dress and make that commitment if I so choose… to rewrite the story the dress still holds for me.
Writes of Passage Facilitator: Gabriella Salmon (http://www.gabriellasalmon.com)