"Who's the fairest of them all?" is never the question I ask my mirror . . . I couldn't bear the response.
The truth is I don't look into the mirror frequently, unless I'm applying mascara and the like. However, today I find myself staring into the proverbial mirror of self-reflection. And I find myself not asking, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Again, because I know the answer.
Sadly, I find myself feeling the weight of my inadequacy as a fellow human being, as I reflect upon my failure to be the good person I want to be - as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, co-worker, neighbor, citizen. We actually have a word for this: guilt.
Guilt is weighty. Guilt brings one down. Guilt imprisons one in the past. Guilt has the power to prevent one from seeing things as they are. Guilt restrains one from living freely. Guilt is the antithesis of joy.
The interesting thing about guilt is that it's a two-way street. Generally, guilt is thrust upon us by the person we've harmed. Guilt forces to see our actions (or inactions) for the harm they have done, and it doesn't generally feel good. Yet, it is important for us to be reminded of the "wrongs" we have committed, in order that we might feel remorse, offer an apology and/or retribution, and learn. These things help us to grow and be better.
In order to grow and be better, it is important to let go of guilt once it has served its purpose. When a heart-felt apology has been offered, and one has had time to reflect on his/her actions and learn from them to be better going forward, guilt should be released by the offender.
As important is the letting go of guilt by the person who was hurt by the actions (or inaction) of the offender. Not only for the offender's sake, but also for the sake of the person harmed. Forgiveness frees the offender and the harmed equally to move forward in a meaningful relationship.
Imparting lasting guilt, and holding onto guilt, both interfere with our hearts' ability to experience joy and meaningful relationships. Mirror, Mirror on the wall . . . reflect guilt when it's appropriate, and replace it with joy when its purpose has been fulfilled.
author of "JOY"