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Guilt and forgiveness


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My depression has always been a part of me.  I've carried a heavy sadness and nervousness with me since I was a child.  I know it is an inherent condition and not something I learned or created, as a lot of people seem to believe.  (Mental illness runs in my family; it's real.)

That said, negative events in life have a strong impact on a person's psyche, as well.  Their effects can be magnified by the inherent depression and send a person into a more severe depression that it is hard to understand by others, who deal with setbacks more easily. 

For most of my life I was "stronger" than my inherent depression.  It caused me a lot of pain, but it didn't rule my life.  However for the past 5 years or so my depression has been on the ascent and now is the dominant force in my life.  I have never felt such despair as I do now.

I know one of the reasons my depression took over was the break-up of my second marriage, which was completely my fault, and the subsequent guilt I've felt ever since.

I had always thought of myself as a good person, but after the way I hurt my beautiful, loving wife (not physically), my perception of myself as a good person shattered.  This realization didn't come immediately, as I was in denial about a lot of things for quite some time.  But eventually it hit me like a hammer.  

I am incredibly lonely and would do anything to get her back, and I did try.  But it's far too late.  I have to live with the loneliness, regret, shame, and guilt for the rest of my life.  Carrying guilt is a heavy burden.

I did eventually apologize and ask her forgiveness, and she did forgive me and is friendly toward me. But I know she went through a lot of pain.  My problem is I cannot forgive myself.  

Recently I started going to a church, where we meet in groups and discuss the Bible and other things.  I told the group about the guilt I carry.  They told me that Jesus Christ takes away our sins if we accept Him.  (I apologize if this is offensive or stupid to the non-Christians reading this.)

Forgiveness is a miraculous gift offered to everyone by a loving God.  All you need do is repent in your heart.  I did repent, and I want to believe I am forgiven by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

But I simply cannot get rid of the guilt.  I cannot forgive myself, even if God can.  I saw how others in the church group, some of whom did awful things, were transformed and overjoyed by God's forgiveness.  Why can't I be?

I just have this feeling that I'm damned for what I did.  Perhaps I just mourn for what I lost.

Has anyone here been tormented by guilt and later were able to forgive themselves?

Edited by One More Red Nightmare
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I understand about not being able to let go of guilt.  I often wonder how far the scripture goes that tells us God will only forgive us if we forgive others. Does that include me forgiving myself?  If it does, I'm done for.  Others I can forgive, but I can't seem to apply that to myself.

I'm slowly making my way towards forgiving myself, but my progress has had more to do with working through psychological issues. 

:console:

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Mr. Nightmare,

    Guilt. Everyone deals with it differently. Please don't think that your guilt makes you any different than anyone else. Some would even use their 'good deeds' towards others as a way of resolving their pain from guilt. The crazy concept to understand is, according to my deity, everyone is guilty. Our guilt is one of the characteristics that forms our lives, or the lack thereof.

    Redemption. I personally feel that before any deity, or anyone else can forgive us, we first must forgive ourselves. In order for equality to return we have to give our guilt away. It all comes down to making everything equal. My deity teaches that we're all equal.

    Equality. It's incredibly hard to keep this post equal, or non-religious. According to my deity, we're all equal, (=). In my book, that makes us all guilty of all sins, no-matter if you're the one physically committing the sin or not. The amazing thing is that we were all given 'gifts' or 'talents'.

    Anything that we're good at is what I'd consider as a 'gift' or 'talent'. I personally feel that in order to have peace and wealth, (wealth being anything we have in abundance that we physically don't need to survive, that would also include guilt). I bet you're wondering how can guilt be a 'gift' or 'talent'.

    Guilt is cylindrical, ( or a cycle). Breaking the cycle is the trick, or finding a different way of perceiving it or our perception. Instead of doing 'good deeds' because we want to release ourselves from the guilt we should do them because we're all family anyways. Eventually, if we concentrate on 'good deeds' we forget about the guilt or shame from our past because we begin to 'perceive' ourselves as a 'do-gooder'.

    Mr. Nightmare, no-one is more guilty than anyone else. The balance of equality and justice is fickle. I can't start quoting scripture here which makes it hard to post here. I'm not sure if this helps any but I want you to know my heart is in the right place. The way I see it is if we all stand together in battle, we will all stand together in victory too. I wish you all the best Sir. Peace and deity blessed.

                                                                                          Sincerely,

                                                                                          Curtis   

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Red,

I was struck by your post because our situations sound so similar.

I've struggled with depression for all of my adult life, but this past year has been the most difficult yet. Mainly, I struggle daily with guilt over how I lost my ex-girlfriend. How I hurt her and ruined our relationship through my cruelty and weakness, and now how lonely I am, having lost the girl I believe was my soul-mate. I was so fortunate that I had happened to meet her at all, and that the girl of my dreams had loved me back. We were sure we would be married. But I ruined everything.

I can empathize very much with your situation, and appreciate that because you were married to her, it must feel even worse. As in your case, the way that I treated her had made me question whether I really AM a good person, as I had always believed (and do still believe, in my heart). I am also Christian and have confessed my sins in this matter and I know that God has forgiven me. She has forgiven me too (and has moved on). BUT, I also cannot seem to fully forgive MYSELF for it, because I am still riddled with guilt about it every day. I will keep trying.

I just wanted to drop you this note to let you know that you're not alone in this.

I will pray for you.

N21

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Hi everyone,

It's very comforting to read this post. 12 years ago I lied to everyone close to me and to doctors, faking being depressed. I had been having panic attacks and was scared of admitting that I couldn't do something. So I pretended to be worse than I was. I have been riddled with guilt ever since. 6 years ago, I went into a major depression that lasted 5 months and was focused on that incident and the guilt. I don't even know how I got over it that time. Well, after a stressful February, my depression has returned and the extreme guilt is the focus again. I don't know if I can ever forgive myself and move on...

I'm going to try EMDR on Friday with my therapist. Desperately hoping that will work. 

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I'm doing an online course on being brave in the face of vulnerability and learned the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is when we feel bad for something we have done and shame is feeling bad for who we are.  Guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation are generally temporary feelings that can arise from our actions or how we were treated but when we use it as a way to define who we are as a person is when it turns into the intense pain of shame.  You feel guilty for what you have done but the real damage comes when the psyche uses it as a way to prove you are worthless, unworthy and a bad person.  You have lost sight of your value but none of that is true.  You may never be perfect.  You may never live up to other people's standards or even your own to some degree but that doesn't mean you don't have value.   The difference between you and the people who were supposedly saved by Jesus's forgiveness is that they believed they could be forgiven. You do not believe it and therefore hang onto your guilt and shame.  If your wife has forgiven you why can't you?  You can't go back.  You can't get your old life back but you can move forward learning from your mistakes knowing odds are you would make different choices moving forward.  And quite frankly the fact that you want to condemn yourself proves that deep down you are a loving compassionate soul otherwise you would have not guilt in the first place.  That is the truth of who you are, not the idea that you are unredeemable.   Living in your past mistake isn't helping you to build a new tomorrow.   Release and move on. 

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1 hour ago, Michelle38 said:

I'm doing an online course on being brave in the face of vulnerability and learned the difference between guilt and shame.  Guilt is when we feel bad for something we have done and shame is feeling bad for who we are.  Guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation are generally temporary feelings that can arise from our actions or how we were treated but when we use it as a way to define who we are as a person is when it turns into the intense pain of shame.  You feel guilty for what you have done but the real damage comes when the psyche uses it as a way to prove you are worthless, unworthy and a bad person.  You have lost sight of your value but none of that is true.  You may never be perfect.  You may never live up to other people's standards or even your own to some degree but that doesn't mean you don't have value.   The difference between you and the people who were supposedly saved by Jesus's forgiveness is that they believed they could be forgiven. You do not believe it and therefore hang onto your guilt and shame.  If your wife has forgiven you why can't you?  You can't go back.  You can't get your old life back but you can move forward learning from your mistakes knowing odds are you would make different choices moving forward.  And quite frankly the fact that you want to condemn yourself proves that deep down you are a loving compassionate soul otherwise you would have not guilt in the first place.  That is the truth of who you are, not the idea that you are unredeemable.   Living in your past mistake isn't helping you to build a new tomorrow.   Release and move on. 

These are wise words, Michelle.  I wish I could live up to them.  I have not yet overcome my limiting beliefs about myself.  I may never overcome them.  The past haunts my every moment.  I can't live with the consequences of my mistakes.  I screwed up my own life.  I know, everybody has to move on and go forward.  Why can't I?  Either I will eventually do it, or I'll die.  I say that because my current state is not sustainable.

Thank you for caring.

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OneMoreRedNightmare, I understand exactly how you're feeling. My past haunts my every moment as well. Even when not thinking about what I did, the guilty feeling just sits in my stomach and blocks everything else out. I do t know if it's always been like this or if I'm just thinking it's always been this way. Have you ever tried EMDR? 

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58 minutes ago, Trustmyselftomoveon said:

OneMoreRedNightmare, I understand exactly how you're feeling. My past haunts my every moment as well. Even when not thinking about what I did, the guilty feeling just sits in my stomach and blocks everything else out. I do t know if it's always been like this or if I'm just thinking it's always been this way. Have you ever tried EMDR? 

Hi, no I have not tried EMDR.  Don't even know what it is!  Is it something you find effective?

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It stands for Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing. You should google it. It's supposed to help process negative memories. It doesn't erase the negative memory (obviously) but it allows you to let go of the negative emotion attached to the memory.  I don't know yet if it's effective. I will have my first session on Friday morning. 

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2 hours ago, One More Red Nightmare said:

These are wise words, Michelle.  I wish I could live up to them.  I have not yet overcome my limiting beliefs about myself.  I may never overcome them.  The past haunts my every moment.  I can't live with the consequences of my mistakes.  I screwed up my own life.  I know, everybody has to move on and go forward.  Why can't I?  Either I will eventually do it, or I'll die.  I say that because my current state is not sustainable.

Thank you for caring.

That is the thing.  You don't have to live up to anything.  You just need to learn from your mistakes is all.  I had a father that was critical of my mistakes and the things I did good so I never developed a good sense of self worth and it of course translated into me feeling like I was simply no good as a human or soul.  And I have done some things I am not proud of either. Things that I wish I could take back but can't.  But tearing ourselves down really only magnifies the suffering and keeps us locked in a prison that we are the only ones who have the key.  It isn't an easy road back from such a great loss of your sense of self but it isn't impossible.  Focus on asking yourself why you can't live with your mistake?  It may have affected your life as you knew it but why is the rest of your life not worth living?  And the big question why can't you move on?  You have the answer inside.  And it might not just be related to this 'Big' mistake.  How we were raised has a huge impact on us even on a subtle level.  My father was critical but he didn't call me names or belittle me.  He seemed to be angry a lot and was yelling for us to be quiet but he never hit us and we were loud kids so I honestly did not put two and two together until my life imploded on me emotionally and I was bound and determine to see myself destroyed.  I now see how sometimes, the more subtle things that happen can undermine our behavior and well being.  So just take some time to reflect on these questions and your life overall.  Somewhere along the line you were taught that mistakes are never to be tolerated and making one is a sign of a bad soul.  Perhaps your religion plays a part but wherever the belief came from it simply is a misguided idea of what being human is about.  And you likely have many more misguided ideas that need to be untangled.  This is where therapy can help but for me writing in a journal was extremely helpful because I was able to get all my thoughts out, no matter how dark, so I could see in black and white, exactly what I was thinking and feeling.  Once I got that out in the open I was then able to start to healing process.  I'm still working on it but I am no longer out to do myself in.  So continue to ask questions of yourself.  You have it in you to move past this and forgive yourself.  The person you need the most forgiving from.  Stay strong.   

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