If anger is a sharp pain, guilt is a dull throb. Guilt can be difficult to transmute into positive energy because it is subtle and rooted in half-truths. For those of us who want to be “moral and good”, guilt will do its best to ruin our day by stamping out our joy. There is nothing moral or good about living a joyless life.
Most of us have weaknesses that harbour guilt. Can you eat that double chocolate cheesecake without feeling guilty? Can you say no to your kids? Can you toss something into the trash that could be recycled? Life has a way of testing our moral resolve, and guilt is a mechanism for self-punishment.
If we use guilt (or the avoidance of guilt) to make decisions, we are setting ourselves up for conflict. Once guilt enters the room of our mind, there is often no easy solution. On the one hand, we “want” to do that, but it would make us feel guilty so we don’t do that. Now we are left, not with guilt, but with remorse instead. Choosing between guilt and remorse is a terrible situation.
Joy Is Your Compass, Not Guilt
We are not here to avoid guilt, we are here to embrace joy.
One technique is to use joy as the compass to guide our lives rather than guilt. We can ask the same questions… Will eating that double chocolate cheesecake make you feel joy? Often, there is a compromise – maybe eating the entire cake will not make us feel joy but eating a few bites will. We can feel confident that joy is always more acceptable than guilt or remorse.
What Is Joy?
We often confuse pleasure with joy, but they are not the same. Pleasure is an immediate but short-term moment of gratification. Pleasure is all about us, and it thrives in this moment only to be gone the next. Pleasure is usually experienced through one of our five senses.
Joy goes much deeper than pleasure. Joy is not felt by one of our five senses, it is felt by our whole being. Joy is a vibration. Joy is more than a thought or belief, joy requires movement – of our chest in laughter, of our legs in dance, of our lips in a smile, of our lungs in breath, or of our soul in love making.
Joy is lasting – it does not “crash out” like pleasure, but lingers on for longer periods. People use drugs and alcohol to replicate organic joy, but those can be addictive and cannot provide a sustained sensations of joy over the long term without damaging our bodies.
Our body is coded to sense joy and when it does, it releases pleasure chemicals and makes us feel good. If our body is like a guitar, joy is what happens when we strum a tune. When we are living with joy, there is no place for guilt. Guilt, meet my new friend Joy.