Getting over guilt

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Two months ago, I ran into a former high school classmate at the bar.

Instead of talking to her, I walked to the bar and ordered another beer. Why? Because I couldn’t face the guilt I felt for some of my actions towards her in high school.

They weren’t particularly mean — maybe just stupid — and this girl had already forgiven me for what happened in  the past, but I still wasn’t able to look her in the eye.

Guilt’s a dangerous thing. In my case, I was drinking because I had no other way to deal with it, as sad that sounds. 

A booze-stocked bar can be effective in forgetting how you’ve messed up, but it’s not healthy. Plus, it only lasts for one night.

When I got home from the bar, I shot her a Facebook message asking if we could meet. 

I think I needed some form of absolution that I hadn’t really gotten before. Sure, I’d apologized, but it’d been over Facebook and I still couldn’t get rid of the guilt I felt.

When you carry guilt for a long enough time, it starts to affect every facet of your life. It’s not something you can get rid of easily.

Maybe it means you avoid certain situations, or act like a clown around certain people because you don’t want to admit how you erred.

It slowly eats away at you. I know for me, I was avoiding it. I needed to find a way of actually dealing with it. 

When I talked to this girl in person for the first time in over three years, I acknowledged my faults and she forgave me again.

In that moment — for whatever reason — I found catharsis. 

I’m not suggesting seeking out everyone you’ve hurt in the past — they may not want to see you. But find a way to deal with your guilt, since there’s no sense in carrying it around.

By playing hockey and devoting my entire university life to writing for a newspaper, I found peace with my past.

Maybe for you it will be something different — volunteer work, making amends or taking up yoga.

Everybody makes mistakes, but it’s no reason to feel guilty for the rest of your life. You can still find absolution, even if you didn’t ask for it.

Sean is one of The Journal’s Features Editors. He’s a fourth-year English major.  

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