Guilt: Its Spiritual connotations

Guilt is not a natural emotion but a self-conscious one. It makes us think more about ourselves by having us reflect upon how we have acted in the past.

Guilt arises from not being able to do the right thing while knowing that it should have been done. When you know and realise that you have compromised your own standards of moral conduct or violated the universal moral standards, guilt starts to set in.

In guilt, we start feeling that we have done wrong in the eyes of God and our own self. We start feeling detached from the people around us, in a way punishing ourselves and other around us for committing a mistake knowingly or unknowingly.

For e.g. in certain cultures, one is prohibited to intake certain foods on particular day(s) in a week and if unknowingly or unintentionally we end up eating that food on that particular day, we start feeling guilty. Guilt is of not following certain ritual, not keeping the discipline to follow through, guilt is an outcome of the realisation that a mistake has been committed.

In our day to day lives there are many instances where we end up feeling guilty for reasons known and unknown to us. A phone call that wasn’t placed, a place one couldn’t go to, a promise one didn’t keep, a routine one didn’t follow, a special gesture one forgot to do for a loved one, a task not completed during your job or work hours;  examples are endless. In doing so we end up carrying very big loads of guilt from our past to our present and it goes on to affect our future as well.

Guilt, on a spiritual level, can be categorised into 3 forms:

  1. Conscious Guilt that we feel on a day-to-day basis. Small things not done, gestures not performed, tasks left incomplete, words left unsaid, all these are examples of conscious guilt that we accumulate through our conscious mind on a daily basis.
  2. Subconscious Guilt or unconscious guilt manifests itself in the form of anxiety, anger, distress, sadness, discomfort or even fears. It’s not stored in your conscious mind, in fact it is related to your past traumas, taboos, negative or harmful beliefs, unbearable situations you must have experienced. It is a guilt one is unaware of.
  3. Soul’s Guilt comes from the belief systems and generational traumas that we have been carrying for several lives, several generations that is so deeply embedded in us that we aren’t even aware of it but we live with it and operate from it in all aspects of our lives. We do not have control over our soul’s guilt. It’s like the ever-prevalent guilt of mothers feeling that they don’t look after their children well. This is a guilt affecting almost all women despite the fact that they do their best in providing everything for their child, but still women feel guilty generation upon generation.

Guilt is not just some negative emotion; it is an emotion that helps us re-evaluate ourselves for the actions we have done or not done. Guilt promotes self-reflection and helps us devise ways to course-correct and do the right thing provided we are aware and ready to face our guilt. As Sabaa Tahir says in the book ‘An Amber in the Ashes’, “There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.” Once we are aware that guilt is a tool that motivates us to apologise and choose the right path, we are able to resolve our guilt at a deeper, spiritual level.

Author: Aumtara