In an attempt to escape guilt, I painted myself into a corner, the corner of resentment.
Guilt and resentment are the currencies we use to pay for our desires.
With the currency of guilt, we buy the permission to do what we want when we think we shouldn’t — we want to do something that contradicts a value we were taught, but that we need to review. If you think about it, guilt comes from a sense of duty — “I should be eating healthy, but I don’t want to” — and the form of payment to reconcile this discrepancy is guilt.
On the other hand, resentment is like a debt. It builds up in our soul as a feeling of unfairness against ourselves — “I won’t say anything about your unacceptable behavior so I can keep peace with this relationship”. Resentment feeds the feelings of victimhood and powerlessness. It’s a self-made trap that seems impossible to escape from. But can we? and how?
By choosing guilt over resentment we are taking care of ourselves first because guilt indicates where our soul wants to go (usually unknown and scary places to force us to let go of a fear). When we act despite our guilt, we take the road of self-discovery beyond our conditioning. At the same time, we exercise the muscle of honesty because it makes us wonder what works for us, hence giving us the power to negotiate fairer conditions in any of our relationships.
But when our actions build resentment, we abuse ourselves in the name of “doing the right thing” or “avoiding to hurt someone’s feelings”. Eventually, this self denial becomes a habit (specially in women) and resentment densifies in our bodies as an illness.
For example, I felt guilty when I denied my help to my daughter to paint her room. She wanted to do it right before a family vacation, when I was particularly busy closing the business and leaving the house in order. I could have agreed to her request to scape the feeling of guilt, but I would have run against resentment for doing something that was inconvenient for me. I chose to be honest instead. I explained to her that if I stop getting ready for the trip to help her, I would have to stay up all night catching up. She understood, felt supported, my guilt washed away and I eliminated the possibility of building up resentment against her.
The good news is that, as we gain more experience and review our values to only keep the ones that work for us, our desires will align with our values and the need to confront this duality, will subside. But until then, I remind myself, that choosing between guilt and resentment, is about choosing between honoring or denying myself.