When is guilt proper?
I talk a lot about responsibility and the fact that you shouldn't blame others for something that is truly your fault. Yet I've also said that "debilitating" guilt - the kind that hurts you or keeps you from living a stress free life - is wrong.
So how do you tell the difference?
That's very simple. Who has the power?
If you had the power to make the decision that would "absolutely- totally and completely" have changed the outcome - then it's your responsibility and you should feel guilty. Seconds after that feeling you should do the following: ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself, do what you can to fix the situation and go on leaving guilt behind.
If you do not have "absolute" control of the situation then it is quite possible that a change in your choices would not have completely solved the problem. They may have led others to a different choice and for that you should feel "partially" responsible, a little guilty, but again, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself, do what you can to "help" fix the situation - if the others involved are willing to let you - and then go on leaving guilt behind.
If you had "NO CONTROL" over the situation and all you could offer was advice - it will help your feelings later if you do offer good advice - but with "NO CONTROL" over the decision making process you cannot allow yourself to feel guilty. There was nothing you could do to change the situation and therefore there should be no guilt.
For parents, this is a hard one. If you know you have done all you can to raise a responsible child and yet you watch them make poor decisions and suffer because of it - it's often hard not to look through your past to find some reason for it to be your fault. We don't want to blame our children so we look for ways to blame ourselves. DO NOT DO THAT!!!! Even when you hate watching them suffer and it hurts you to the core - don't let yourself feel guilty for their mistakes.
There are times when children or young adults simply need to make a mistake so they will learn to trust the advice of others. We can work to make that easier by letting them try their hand at decision making while they live with us. But sometimes, they will need the knowledge that only experience and a few hard knocks will give them. That is incredibly hard for loving parents to watch, especially when we know we can't fix it when they ask for help. But....sometimes that's the heavy heart we must endure. We should not add guilt to that experience.
As far as marriages are concerned, it gets even harder. We want to believe that our love will cover every problem. We are taught this from the time we are small. "Love covers a multitude of sins." How many times have you heard that? But the problem is, that phrase is talking about spiritual issues. God's love does cover all our sins. Our love for each other can not and will not cover sins. You may think it will, but it only hides them and lets them fester until they show up later uglier than ever.
What we must understand about love and marriage is that it's a computer with no delete button. Therefore be careful about your actions to the other person. Those actions create reactions that can come back and bite you. If you have done all you can to be the person God wants you to be to your spouse - don't feel guilty because you can't love him/her out of their sin. They must be responsible for their own actions. Holding them responsible doesn't lessen your love.
Your working environment is a hodge podge of problems. With more individuals involved and more chances for different percentages of guilt, it's harder to determine where the "decision" making power lies. Ask yourself these questions:
"Did I give 100% today?" If you did, then don't feel guilty.
"Did I do all of my work by myself and try to do the best with the knowledge and expertise that I had?" If you did, then don't feel guilty.
"Did I deal with others in the same way I would like to be dealt with?" If you did, then don't feel guilty.
"Was I in any way sick, depressed, tired or pushed around by others?" If you were then you have a reason for not being 100%, so don't feel guilty.
The best way to avoid guilt and depression is to work to be the highest quality person that you possibly can. Most guilt is a response to the sub-conscious knowledge that we did not do our best.
Hold the bar high. Constantly try to be better. Don't look at others and what they are doing. Look within yourself, properly analyze your own abilities and then do the best you can with those. Understand that we can't be perfect in any area and we can't be best in all areas. For example, I know that I have exceptional talents with children. I understand psychology and can be above average in my relationships. But I also know that I do not have the ability or expertise to work with severely abnormal psychology or the severely handicapped. I simply can't do it. My sympathy gets in the way and I get depressed and frustrated. I'm not going to feel guilty about it - it's just a knowledge of what I can do and what I can't do. We need to deal with all of life in that same way.
We all should have necessary knowledge of relationships and how to handle them. That's in the same category as learning proper hygiene or learning to drive. Spend time learning how to make others feel good and how to develop strong relationships. Try putting others first as much as possible and tell yourself that rewards are not what people say but how they treat you. When you've done all you can to be a person above reproach, trust God that he will bless your life and your relationships. If there's an area where you can't find release, then distance yourself for a while and ask for God's wisdom. Like my example, don't try to pass yourself off as "all wise and all knowing" in relationships if that is hard for you. Take a deep breath and allow others to help you cultivate the areas that are hard for you.
If I was put in a situation where I had to work with a severely handicapped or psychologically abnormal individual, I would do my best to be all I could be in that "relationship." But, I would also understand that I may make mistakes that others wouldn't because they were more gifted. I would refuse to feel guilty knowing that I was doing my best and I would subject myself to advice from others.
When you've done all you feel is humanly possible, when you've obeyed the rules and treated others fairly, when you've been an honorable person - rest easy and leave the guilt behind.
Helpful Tip: If you weigh your actions carefully, you can avoid the problems of guilt by not reacting out of emotional stress. Keep yourself logical and ask questions before jumping to conclusions. Investigate all situations. Get proper - well qualified advice. The best way to avoid guilt is to avoid rash emotional decisions. Don't fly on auto pilot. Think about every moment of every day. And then as they say - Go out and make it a good one!
God loves you,