30 Seconds of Guilt…

30-seconds-strategyI’ll never forget the words of a priest on a women’s retreat I attended years ago in Malvern, PA: “Spending more than 30 seconds of guilt is a waste of time.” We as Catholics, Christians, people with morals, moms, dads, kids…all struggle with feelings of guilt from time to time. Just recently I was allowing myself to wallow a lot longer than 30 seconds in feeling guilty over disappointing someone because I made an innocent mistake and plans changed. I had no ill intentions…and the other person, while disappointed, wasn’t angry and probably let it go long before I did. What did my guilt accomplish? It robbed me of precious minutes (which can turn into hours and sometimes days) that could better be spent focusing on helping others, doing God’s Will, being joyful. Fortunately I remembered the priest’s words (after a good friend of mine reminded me that guilt is a waste of time) and I moved on to being useful again. Guilt is often self-centered and a form of fear, just like its evil step-sisters–self-pity, stress and worry. And we know fear is the opposite of love. The theme of the retreat, by the way, was finding your “pearl of great price,” which Jesus likens to the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew. Have you found your pearl? And if so, are you letting guilt or one of it’s counterparts block you from acquiring it? We are all human, all sinful and we all make mistakes and step on others’ toes. So how to avoid wasting time on guilt? The Bible tells us to take action. “Guilt (sin, iniquity) is banished through love and truth; evil is avoided by reverence for God.” (Prov. 16:6) The 12-Step program gives us Step 10: “continue to take personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.” The Steps and the Church give us the gift of confession as well. If you feel guilty about anything today or this week, I encourage you only allow yourself to feel guilty for 30 seconds only and then to promptly take action (if you can) or at least decide to take action in the future, talk to someone, talk to God and then let it go.  Life is too short and your time and energy to important to the world out there which so badly needs it.


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