29 Aug A Decent Regret – August 30 2020
The literal, absolute definition of the word ‘sin’ is ‘error’… Operationally, there is just one single recurrent ‘sin’, which is that of error, ignorance, misperception, mistake, or miscalculation. It is a consequence of a limitation of human consciousness. Self-forgiveness is facilitated by humility and acceptance of this limitation. Realistically, what is usually appropriate is a ‘decent regret’, as was cited by Bill W., the famous founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Excessive guilt and remorse are a disguised form of egotism in which the self becomes blown up, exaggerated, and the hero of the tragedy, the negativity of which feeds the ego. Therefore, release from guilt requires surrender of this basic egotism because the ego reenergizes itself through the negativity…
Wallowing in guilt is feeding the ego and is an indulgence. Therefore, there has to be the willingness to surrender it.
David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.,
Transcending the Levels of Consciousness
I once was told by a psychiatrist, one of the wisest men I’ve ever met, that guilt is by and large a worthless emotion. His theory is that the guilt feeling is a leftover from our evolutionary past, a built-in biochemical consequence to any action that takes us out of the flow of the herd; for when a herd animal wanders just outside the herd, he attracts predators, thereby endangering all of the herd. Hence guilt is one of nature’s ways of assuring our continued survival.
In Transcending the Levels of Consciousness, Dr. Hawkins explains that guilt is a consequence of judging the behavior of the past with the consciousness of the present. The person I am today has grown through the experience of yesterday. I have learned from my ‘mistakes.’ I have evolved. By definition, I will be more conscious today than I was yesterday, and I will be able to see how I might have done things differently, how I might do things today.
What this means is that, if I am inclined to feeling guilty, I will always be able to find something to feel guilty about.
Both of these wise men speak to the fact that for most of us, guilt can be more detrimental than it is beneficial.
We humans learn by trial and error. This is our nature. Yet so many of us feel guilty for ‘coming up short’ in our lives. We treat ourselves as if we should know how to do things we’ve never done before, as if we’re supposed to know how to choose a good romantic partner, how to stay in a long-term relationship, how to be a good parent, how to love; and yet all of these things, and so much more in our life, is on-the-job training. The mistakes and the missteps are the process by which we grow, the way we find our path to a better life, to a better use of ourselves.
Stepping forward into the next unknown moment with the intention to show up as best we can, giving as much of ourselves as we can–this is what we can expect of ourselves. This is what we can ask of ourselves. And when we land ungracefully, when we miscalculate, we can have a ‘decent regret’, learn whatever lesson there is to learn and find the willingness to surrender the guilt, leaving ourselves open and available to trying it–whatever it is–one more time.
Today I will make the effort to leave guilt and self-judgment aside. I will give myself permission to not know how to do something, and I will do it anyway, as well as I can, trusting that I have been designed to learn in just this way.
Bud Powell, pillow