Guilty as charged
Have you ever found yourself feeling bad for not helping a person out? Has such a feeling got out of control? How do you deal with the guilt?
Dulangani (23) says, "Recently, I was passing Vihara Maha Devi Park and saw a little girl with hardly anything to eat on her plate, but she was ardently writing in her notebook on the pavement. There were many books, all neatly covered, beside her. I thought about how eager she was to learn. I felt like I wanted to do something, at least to give her a lunch packet. But at that moment, I didn't have much cash, so I walked away. Once I reached work, I felt so bad; I should have given something. I guess I'll feel bad about this for a long time." Twenty-four-year-old Anirban says, "I usually like to help the homeless people who you find along the road side and in public transport. But sometimes I don't do so due to some hesitation that comes to my mind in that particular instance about their authenticity. However, after a few seconds when he/she leaves the place, I feel very bad, especially when others have not given anything either."
I am sure you would have experienced such feelings at least a few times in your life. And this feeling – categorized as guilt – is when you feel responsible for something you did not do.
"Feeling guilty is something natural and it brings about the human quality in you. It's not something abnormal. But what's important is that you don't sit and brood over the matter and do nothing about it.
There's no need for you to feel guilty about feeling guilty," says Ann Abayasekara, a well-known counsellor. She adds that once you regret not doing something, then the next time you are faced with a similar situation, you may have the chance to change things for the same person, if you are fortunate, or maybe someone who is going through a similar situation. Says Mrs. Abayasekara, "But sometime there are no next times. In such cases, most of us do regret for a long time. There is only one source we could turn to in such irreversible circumstances – if you believe in God, then you could pray for the person and seek forgiveness from God that you were not able to help out the person."
Twenty-two-year-old Zuhar says, "There are many times I do feel guilty. The first thing I do in such circumstances is to see how much of it is my fault and try to rectify it as best as I can. If things were too late to do anything, then I would learn the lesson from it and would not repeat it. Afterwards, I stop feeling guilty."
Ravi (23) says, "I guess it's human to make mistakes, but what's important is not to repeat that mistake over and over again. You learn the lesson and then move on. Feeling guilty is something everyone does and what matters is to understand what really happened and if you could do something, go ahead. And if there's nothing you could do about it, let it go."
The guilty feeling so far being discussed falls into a minor category. However, there's another type of guilt, which is hard to erase in our mind. As children if we were brought up in strict homes where many things are not allowed and we were often punished for very small things, then we would carry these feelings with us.
For instance, if it was regarded as a real sin to fail in school, without focusing on one’s special talents as a child, then even years later, we may feel guilty and bad about anything we consider a failure in life.
This perfectionism will result in a negative picture of ourselves and limits what we can achieve. So we find it easy to blame ourselves for things that go wrong, or accept blame from others when it is not deserved.
This feeling of guilt is a powerful one. It can make us ill, depressed, unable to relate to people. It can lead to depression, even suicide.
Says Mrs. Abayasekara, "Parents and teachers, as teachers too play a vital role in bringing up the character of the children, should take care of what terms they use to speak to children and should be conscious of what their remarks could cause.
It could be resolved by talking with children. Being open with children helps to identify the problem of guilt and resolve it."