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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

And now for G and H

'Guilt is the very nerve of sorrow.' Horace Bushnell

It’s a tricky emotion guilt and it has a number of guises. You commit a crime, and it is proven, then you are guilty. That is the law. But it doesn’t necessarily convey the true meaning of guilt as I’m sure several recalcitrant law breakers don’t experience the real meaning of guilt.

Guilt is a feeling that stems from our emotions and cannot be imposed by an external force. It comes from our internal realisation that we have compromised our own standards of behaviour, our ethics our beliefs.

When we experience guilt there is a sense of pain and perhaps an understanding that we might have to do something to undo the wrong we have caused. But much of the sensation of guilt is self-imposed. And not all that often does it come to us because of what we have done but more likely because of what we have failed to do. On a simple level one might feel the stab of guilt when they binge watch a Netflix series instead of writing the next chapter of the book they are working on! Or maybe one ate the last biscuit in the full knowledge that someone else had been saving it for their afternoon cup of tea. Or mixed up the recycling with rubbish. Hardly enough to engender earth-shattering, soul wrenching guilt but still provokes the pangs of having not done the right thing.

More powerfully guilt is experienced when we have an awareness of ignoring the bigger issues in life. The failure to help a vulnerable person because it was easier to walk on by. The looking away from a situation that might require courage and compassion speaks to the kind of guilt that shows we have failed ourselves. When we don’t live up to our expectations of goodness, kindness, decency and bravery guilt becomes a companion. It reminds us that we have to do better. It is not a public punishment that is meted out by the courts but an internal, private monologue that lets you know that your standards have slipped. It might be the thing that keeps you awake at night.

If I had any advice on the matter it might be this. Binge Netflix, apologise for eating the Tim Tam, make amends for the small indiscretions with smaller acts of kindness but don’t leave your highest held beliefs about your better side floundering in the dust. If you don’t want the guilt, do the things that make your world, or the whole world a better place.

And now H.

In the H list was hatred, happiness and humiliation. Hubris, hostility and hysteria were contenders. But I have decided on hope. It is whimsical and optimistic with just a shadow of threat. As in I hope you are reading and sharing my blogs! But ultimately it lives somewhere within the heart or soul of us, even the most cynical, and allows us to have some expectation of positive outcomes. It has a childlike naivety in that it is wishful and full of promise. At times it is delusional and self-preserving. It can be a way of expressing our genuine desires for good things to colour the world of people we care about.

Hopefulness gets a bad rap from some. It is too Pollyanna for the sceptical, too lacking in realism for the sardonic and lacks an understanding of the world for the realists. We are not going to ‘hope’ the world out of a climate crisis or Russia out of its invasion of the Ukraine. For some hope is like wishing, praying or magical manifestations.

The nay sayers might support Nietzsche belief: ‘hope is the worst of the evils because it prolongs torment.’ The pessimism of this burdens me. I prefer the Italian proverb that says: ‘Hope is the last thing ever lost.’

I don’t feel we are weighed down by hope. We are elevated by it because it speaks to the belief that something better can be achieved. It is a dream, an aspiration, an achievable goal. Hope is a marathon and sprint to the finish. It is the beginning of all extraordinary things.

'Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.' Desmond Tutu

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