Guilt is one of the most nerve-wracking emotions there is. It can cripple you and drain you of any shred of hope you think you have left. We find forgiving others a breeze, a walk in the park and we do it ever so effortlessly. But one of the hardest things to do is to forgive yourself.
Like, is there something I could have done to prevent this? I have made a mess of things. Perhaps I should have taken my baby to the hospital instead of passing off the illness as a mild cough. I should have said ," I love you" on that last phone call. I should have pressed her on to spend the night and not board that plane. I should have gone to visit the day I was prompted to. So many 'shouldas', 'couldas' and 'wouldas'.
It's a terrible place to be in, a dark hole that some people struggle to crawl out of. Others stay huddled in that pit and never make their way out.
Peter and Judas were both guilt-stricken at certain points in their lives. One look at his Master's face after the cock crowed thrice was all it took for the torrent of tears to gush forth.
Peter must have felt so glum and thoroughly ashamed of himself. This was the same man who had boasted vehemently earlier that he would never deny nor forsake his Master. When the time came, he went contrary to his previous promises with no twinge of compunction whatsoever.
But it didn't end there. Peter moved past this incident and went on to become one of the greatest apostles and one of the early doctors of the church.
The Basilica in the Vatican city, reputed to be the largest church building in the world, named after him stands as a memorial that one can shake off the feelings of guilt and despair and rise from the doldrums of self-loathing and condemnation.
Judas on the other hand, betrayed his Master with a kiss and for thirty pieces of silver. My father, in one of our deep conversations opined that Judas was used to seeing his Master disappear each time an angry mob attempted to seize and lynch him. He became accustomed to seeing the Master, slip through the teeming crowd, flanking and milling around Him.
Perhaps that was what triggered his greed and informed his decision to sell out and give the Master away. In that temporary state of short-sightedness, he felt that was what would play out after he had received and then stored away the thirty pieces of silver in his kitty. That was not to be....
I can almost imagine how he felt when He saw His Master being scourged, bruised, lanced and mocked. I'm almost beginning to feel sorry for him. Alas, it is too late, he must have thought, as his contrite attempt to return the pieces of silver was thwarted and rejected. The realization that it was not business as usual and nothing could be done at that moment, dawned on him and he was overtaken with guilt and shame, so much so, that he went on to hang himself.
It's so easy for most of us to term that as an act of cowardice but don't we all?
Moments when we feel weighed down by our mistakes and brood over them, when we beat ourselves up over and again for what we did or failed to do. When we stay stuck in the rut, dwell in the past and refuse to bury it.
I keep thinking, if only he knew it was. All part of the plan. If only he knew there was really nothing he could have done to prevent that situation. It was foretold of him eons of years before he was born. He was merely acting out a part of the script. The pieces of the puzzle were just beginning to come together and fall in place. If only he could have chosen to see the bigger picture. If only he hadn't taken his life. I can't but imagine....He would have been the perfect example of how one can rise above mistakes. He would have gone on to write epistles that posterity would learn and glean from. His name would have been associated with something more noble, more admirable and not attributed to betrayal as is presently obtainable. He would have secured his place in the annals of time, as proof that one can overcome guilt and use that same debilitating emotion as a stepping stone. If only...
But you can choose to be that example. You can start today by forgiving yourself. I've heard it said before that self-loathing is a form of pride. Pretty much like saying, "I'm supposed to be perfect and flawless. I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I stooped so low. I can't believe I did those terrible things".
Don't be too hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to fail and whilst you are it, endeavour to fail forward. Leave room for a tiny slip here, a little lapse there. Embrace your flaws, your frailties, your foibles, your shortcomings. No one's perfect and infallible after all.
My dad also went on to say that had David not stumbled and fallen, we would not have the book of Psalms today. "There is no sin without forgiveness, no pencil without an eraser", I often hear him say, as a word of encouragement to those who feel weighed down by the guilt of their actions.
This is in no way trying to endorse betrayal or wrong behavior. It takes strength of character and courage to own up to wrongdoing and feel a measure of remorse.
But it's not okay to remain there for the rest of your life. It's not okay to make your mistakes define you. It's not okay to carry it around like an albatross, so much so that it begins to affect and pollute your future.
Understand that it's all part of the plan, that it is but for a season, a passing phase, a learning curve, a bend and not necessarily the end, a detour in the journey. It is not your final destination.