First, what is guilt? Most people know the answer. It’s the feeling of responsibility for doing something wrong or having done something wrong in the past. I would say we all have this feeling of guilt. It’s universal. We’ve all made mistakes, sometimes big ones. And feelings of guilt are too often the result.
In 12-step recovery programs, “making amends” is an important step. If there are mistakes that can be corrected, wrongs that can be righted, hurts that can be apologized for, by all means, do so. Many years ago, one of our assistants stole quite a lot of money from us as well as Joyce’s diamond engagement ring, and then quickly moved away. Many years passed and then, a few years ago, she called and got Joyce on the phone. Through her tears, she admitted that her guilt has been a huge burden, holding her back in her life, and she wanted to make it right. Joyce was loving (because that’s who she is) but she was also firm about the importance of paying us back. This young woman enthusiastically agreed, but we have never heard from her again. We can only imagine how the continued weight of her guilt is keeping her unhappy until she can make things right.