When you grow up experiencing adversity in childhood, GUILT is a common LIE you learn to believe. But it loses its power the moment you realize its nature and where it came from. By knowing the TRUTH about GUILT, you can begin to overcome it.
To help you do that, here we explore the four truths about GUILT. If you’ve followed my previous posts sharing the story of British actor Martin Rayner, you may have already intuited these truths, as his story demonstrates them well.
What I so love about Martin’s story, and what I often hear when people share with me these stories, is that he does not believe he succeeded in spite of the adversity he faced in childhood – he believes he succeeded because of it.
As he so poignantly states, “Those terrible years were precious to me.”
While his past gave him many lessons, an abiding strength and emotional depth, I want us to take note of the 4 key points of TRUTH his story reveals. You may readily be able to relate to these points of truths from your own story as well…
1) GUILT is far more damaging than we often realize. The GUILT that those of us who grow up facing adversity in childhood feel is insidious. It can creep up in unexpected ways, no matter what our rational minds try to tell us.
2) GUILT often stays with us, hiding in the background. Its voice is insistent and can strike, chip away at, or completely derail us out when we least expect it. Even after decades have passed, and even after we find a greater sense of self-worth and a deeper faith in the purpose of our life, it can be difficult to shake the feeling that we somehow fell short of what we should have done in childhood – that something is inherently wrong with us because we could have done more to stop the violence but didn’t.
3) GUILT is a pattern that often recurs until we directly face it. Yes, at key times, deep down, the GUILT often comes back. Just as it did for Martin, until he took action to get out of that pattern. But if we continue to buy into the illusion of GUILT, it is hard to act. Why? Guilt is like an addiction that sticks with us and eats away at our self-esteem. It kills willpower – the purposeful intent to take action towards our potential. GUILT can cripple us and become the most subtle source of stress, anxiety, and lack of purpose in our life.
4) You can let go of the GUILT. GUILT is an illusion – we were not GUILTY for the violence in our home or for our inability to stop it. A child can NEVER be responsible for the actions of adults. It is by realizing the TRUTH that we can begin to let go of the GUILT and become FREE. One of the best ways to come to this realization is to talk about it. Self-expression, using our voice, any form of sharing, can help release the GUILT. It helps us see and understand our experience through the eyes of another. We saw this captured most powerfully in Martin’s development into an exceptional and acclaimed actor. The opportunity to express himself not only freed him from his GUILT – it connected him with his passion and fueled his purpose. What if self-expression is uncomfortable and difficult for you? If that’s the case, do not worry. Sharing can remain private and intimate. You can share your story only with someone very close to you that you feel you can trust, or simply with yourself, in an art project or private journal. You can express your thoughts and emotions through writing, dance, music, or sports.
The key is that you now see you have control over the emotion of GUILT and you do not need to let it linger and subvert your life. Now, you can choose what to believe moving forward.
A detailed overview of the GUILTY Lie can be found in CHAPTER 1 (“Guilty to Free”) of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.