The Only Purpose of Guilt

The only purpose of guilt is to reinforce itself.
~ Anthony Gold

I’ve mastered the art of guilt. I’m not even sure art is the right word since it seems more like science. Guilt is a precise, repeatable method for beating ourselves up. And oh is it effective.

The truth is – we are all our own worst enemy. Sure, people and events can (and often do) beat us up, but nothing really compares to the damage we inflict inward.

Why do we do it?

Guilt is a shadowy, veiled form of atonement. I feel bad for something I did (much more so on an unconscious level), I believe I’m deserving of some sort of punishment, and we take matters into our own hands.

It’s our way of saying to God / karma / or whatever form of higher judgment we believe in that there’s no need to exact vengeance, I got this covered.

Of course, it doesn’t really work that way. Because even after we cloak ourselves in the iron armor of guilt, we still feel that sense of unworthiness and deserving of penalty.

We’d be much better served acknowledging our shortcomings, asking ourselves what we could do differently next time, and treating ourselves with gentle compassion.

As the Course wisely counsels:

Look with gentle graciousness upon [yourself and] your brother. There is no need to learn through pain. Joy is the inevitable result of gentleness.

The next time we are tempted to choose guilt, let’s instead try being gentle and compassionate with ourselves.