Ask: Where and when do folks buy into guilt?
“I am continually confused by most everything about the meanings in ACIM of the concept of guilt. I was brought up in a home that taught that God loves us unconditionally and is present everywhere; that we reflect Him and all his qualities; that we are already "perfect" in reality. Being "perfect" as a young person took time to take in however, being a good person did not. Where and when do folks buy into guilt? Human guilt is another thing. Most of us feel human guilt easily which impedes our human and spiritual growth but can be a teaching tool, I think. Is there a time when we ‘should’ feel guilt?” – LK
Very simply, when you identify with limited form (the self) you are aware on a deep, unconscious level that your mind is not in its natural state of limitless, formless Being (what A Course in Miracles calls “God”). So you are uncomfortable. To preserve itself in your mind the ego (personal) thought system in your mind tells you that your discomfort is guilt, or a deep sense of being intrinsically wrong or bad. In your identification with the ego your natural state of Being seems “other” to you. It seems like a power outside of and over you. You believe, when you identify with an ego, that the source of your guilt is that you have undone, killed, attacked – take your pick – this “god” outside of you. The ego tells you that this god is going to punish you and ultimately kill you. This is what you believe, unconsciously and/or consciously, when the universe of form is real to you.
You can see why guilt is central to the ego thought system. There is no guilt in your mind without the ego. And there is no ego in your mind without guilt. This is why to undo guilt in your mind you must release the ego thought system.
The source of guilt in your mind is the ego thought system, not any teaching in the world. The world reinforces guilt for the most part, because everyone in it believes, unconsciously and/or consciously, that the ego in their mind is them and that guilt is real. Sometimes there are situations where guilt is somewhat mitigated, as you described in your upbringing. However, guilt is in your mind as long as the ego is in your mind. Of course you can learn that guilt is not real and detach from the ego. This is what teachings like ACIM are for. This is a long process of first learning to recognize all of the ways that guilt shows up and then undoing all of the ways that you believe that guilt is real.
(For a partial list of the common ways in which guilt shows up here’s a link to an earlier article: http://acimmentor.blogspot.com/2014/02/ask-are-we-to-accept-intrinsic-guilt-as.html).
Guilt is never justified. In my book, Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace, I make a distinction between guilt and a social conscience. They are not the same, though the ego will twist your social conscience into a source for guilt:
“When you are very young adults are supposed to teach you the boundaries and laws of your family, culture, and society. These rules of right and wrong form a social-morality. As you learn these you develop a social conscience. Your social conscience is an internal sense of what is right or wrong according to your family, culture, or society. It is what feels disturbed when you violate social-morality. Rules, boundaries, and laws vary among families, cultures, and societies. They also change over time as values change and more is learned about the world and human nature. Though arbitrary, social-morality is a starting point for living in relative harmony with others in the world.
When rational and realistic, rules, boundaries, and laws serve the well-being of a family, culture, or society. But the belief in an absolute-morality results in unrealistic and/or harsh social-moralities to control members of a family, culture, or society. Absolute-morality, if it existed, would be right and wrong behavior in the world as decreed by a power, or god, over it. Your unconscious belief in absolute-morality is your belief that guilt is an intrinsic aspect of reality. When you confuse absolute-morality and social-morality, social-morality becomes an attempt to control what is seen as intrinsic guilt.
A disturbed social conscience and feeling guilty are not the same experience. But the personal thought system hijacks your social conscience to “prove” your guilt. A social conscience refers to the self’s behavior in the world in relation to others. If guilt does not become involved with it, your social conscience is assuaged through amends or a genuine change in values. Guilt, however, is the feeling that the imperfect and sometimes mistaken self is proof that you are intrinsically wrong or bad. Guilt cannot be swept away. Where your social conscience sees temporary mistakes easily corrected, your belief in intrinsic guilt sees eternal sins that can never be undone. It twists your social conscience into a useful source for guilt.”
The book goes on to give examples to explain this further. And, as you can tell by the title, it eventually goes into how to release guilt by undoing your unconscious and/or conscious belief in a god outside of you.
Learn about the books The ACIM Mentor Articles, The Plain Language A Course in Miracles, 4 Habits for Inner Peace, and Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace at www.acimmentor.com.
If you have a question the answer to which you think will help others send it to Liz@acimmentor.com and indicate that you want it answered in the ACIM Mentor Newsletter/Blog.