If you’ve ever had a guilty conscience, you know how difficult it can be to go on with your life just like before the event that caused your guilt. Taking action to help you make up for the harmful event or put it in your past can help you manage your guilt and move forward with more positivity.
Consider applying these strategies to help you deal with a guilty conscience:
1. Come clean. If you can go to the person you wronged, fully knowing and accepting what might happen to your relationship, you might be able to purge your conscience.
- However, when you have a guilty conscience, it’s often because you committed a grave error against someone you really love and care about. You might feel like you can never come clean with that person due to possible repercussions.
- If you’re inclined to choose this method, consider it carefully before you implement it. Reflect both on how this knowledge will affect the one you wronged as well as how coming clean will affect you. It may be best to use the written word.
2. Write down your misdeed and an apology. Read it aloud to the person, or hand it to him to read.
3. Acknowledge to yourself that you’re human. Be honest with yourself about what you did. Then, recognize that every person makes mistakes and that your goal is to avoid making this same error again.
4. Learn from it. Spend some time thinking about the event and the mistake you made. Put yourself back into that mindset and ask yourself, “Why did I do it?” Recognize where you were emotionally at the time and how destructive that “place” was for you. What can you learn from the experience?
5. Seek religious consult. If you belong to a religion that encourages confession and reconciliation, follow through with it! It’s truly uplifting and encourages healing from your wounds.
6. Spend some time doing volunteer work. If you believe you must do something to “cancel out” the deed you committed, schedule time to do volunteer work in your community. It might be addressing envelopes for a local charity to mail flyers or answering a local organization’s phones for 2 hours a week.
- Remind yourself that you are “paying” for your misdeed by doing good things for others. Be positive.
7. Focus on doing one good deed a day. Maybe you can give your neighbor a lift to work. Or you can wash your dad’s car. Take a look around you. You’ll see people everywhere performing daily tasks. Jump in and help them. It will feel great and renew your faith in yourself and your positive actions.
8. Donate money to a cause you believe in. Whether it’s to help the Haitians get on their feet or to give toward the rebuilding of New Orleans, give a decent chunk of change to assuage your conscience. Will it help? It will definitely make a positive difference to someone, perhaps to you as well.
- Recognize within yourself, “I’m donating this money to show I am still a decent human being, even though I made a grievous error.”
9. See a therapist or counselor. If you feel you’re going to explode from the weight of your error, it might be time to talk to a professional about it. Therapists are required to respect your confidentiality within limits as specified by your state. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to say out loud what you did.
- A therapist can assist you in coping better with your feelings, learning to leave the mistake behind you, and become a better person for it.
Coping successfully with a guilty conscience will take some time and diligence on your part. Set to work applying the above strategies. You’ll be glad you did!