Warning: Guilt is Not Gratitude

How to let go of guilt, shame and stress to make way for joy and gratitude.

Have you ever said “I’m sorry” when what you meant was “Thank you?” Or, have you ever said “Thank you,” but felt shame or guilt while you were saying it?

Apology, guilt and gratitude are commonly confused for one another. You’ll feel shame rather than remorse when you have something to apologize for. You’ll mistakenly connect shame with the experience of receiving something from someone else.

“Thank you” is a common phrase, but the experience of feeling true gratitude is far more elusive. It becomes a habit to punish ourselves with guilt rather than enrich our lives (and others’) with gratitude.

Feeling guilt instead of gratitude sends a message to yourself that you are less-than. It creates distance between yourself and other people.

Gratitude heals you and connects you with another person through vulnerability and strength in character – even before you express that gratitude outwardly. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel compassion, love and connection without the burden of worry, shame, or stress?

Click Here: Downloadable .pdf of Gratitude Reminders (it’s free!)

Here are the four steps to let go of guilt to make way for joy and gratitude.
1. Face Emotions and Reduce Resentment

Guilt perpetuates feelings of shame, hopelessness and powerlessness. Guilt also builds resentment toward others, which can allow anger to fester in the back of your mind. Eventually, you will let that anger out toward yourself, that other person, or someone else entirely. You will then feel regret, which (out of habit) turns to guilt, and the cycle will start over again!

You miss opportunities for joy by feeling guilty about your emotions rather than accepting them. Can you imagine acknowledging your feeling, such as when you feel angry, and expressing it rather than hiding it out of guilt? Accepting what you feel in the moment and talking about it, acting on it, or otherwise addressing it keeps you out of a cycle of resentment that perpetuates guilt.

2. Generate Genuine Gratitude

Due to its insidious nature, it is not always apparent the way that guilt robs you of gratitude.

Can you make a list of all of the things you’re grateful for?

Thinking about what you’re grateful for may be uncomfortable. Listing things that you “should” appreciate will seem fake. If you compare yourself to others who “have it worse,” it will bring you quickly back to a place of guilt.

If you stick with it and keep thinking about things that you’re grateful for for a longer period of time, how long does it take before your feel true gratitude? How many things did you list? Five? 20? 50? What did you experience emotionally and physically when you noticed feeling grateful? Guilt may try to sneak in and take the feeling of gratitude away. Can you bring yourself back to the gratitude?

With practice, you can eventually do a brief version of this at any time and give yourself a genuine gratitude mentality boost.

3. Practice Kindness without Guilt

You’ve probably made a kind gesture out of guilt in the past. Is guilt necessary for you to be kind?

Feeling guilty is often confused with caring for someone else. Have you ever done something “kind” because you feel guilty and actually compromised your own values, needs or well-being? Guilt distracts us from our own needs, from positive possibilities, and even from caring about others.

Many people learn to feel guilty because guilt was a part of caring for someone in their life. You may have been taught to feel guilty when someone you cared about was upset, withdrawn, or critical toward you (such as a parent, friend, teacher or partner). Guilt is also linked to anxiety because it involves worrying about what has happened or what should be done next, as well as encouraging the habit of trying to guess or predict what someone else thinks or wants.

Love does not require guilt. Compassion does not require guilt. Learning to separate guilt from love and compassion may take time, but it will open you up to experiencing deeper love, compassion, joy and gratitude in your life.

Make conscious actions that are kind toward others, first checking on whether or not they are kind toward yourself and whether the kindness is being freely given without pressure, fear or guilt.

4. Keep It Up!

By focusing your attention on letting go of guilt and learning to experience true gratitude, you’ll finally start to break out of the stressful cycle.

It will sometimes be a struggle to let go of guilt and let gratitude give you all of its benefits. You’ve learned the guilt habit over the course of a lot of time. Learning the way to let it go can be more fun if you have someone on your team. My approach to therapy can help! Let’s talk about it in a free phone consultation. Contact me now via phone or email.

Take action today with this free list…

Download your free daily reminders to let go of guilt and make gratitude a healthy habit.

Just a few moments can make joy and gratitude a part of your life every day.

Let me know which one is your favorite on the list!

Click Here: Downloadable .pdf of Gratitude Reminders (it’s free!)