A person can only take on so much guilt before it becomes too much to bear. It is hard sometimes to distinguish between personal responsibility and guilt. I am willing to take personal responsibility for my actions and to take steps to change behavior that caused pain in the lives of those in my orbit, so that it doesn't happen again. What I cannot do, is carry the guilt around with me, like an albatross. There comes a time when I have to relinquish the guilt, knowing that I have done what I can.
This is hard for me. I have always taken guilt upon myself and have a hard time doing things just because I need to, but, I am learning that it is okay to be selfish sometimes. There is only so much I can do to insure that others aren't affected by my actions. I can only sometimes predict how someone is going to react and I can never control their reactions. I am only responsible for myself and doing what is right, for me, is often all I can do. Now, this doesn't mean I have no responsibility beyond myself, it simply means that I can only control one person, and that is me. If I have done something that hurts someone that I care about, I can control how I handle it, by apologizing and asking what I can do to help them recover, I cannot control what they do after that. If they choose to hold a grudge, keep bringing the issue up again and again, or otherwise cannot see their way to forgiving me, then it is no longer on me. It doesn't absolve me of my original guilt or make it as if I never did anything wrong, but I cannot keep reliving my guilt by taking on the pain of everyone around me and beyond.
I realize actions have a ripple effect and that I don't live in a vacuum. What I do affects not only those in my inner circle, but also those close to those in my inner circle. I understand that; but my understanding it doesn't mean I take upon myself the guilt for all of it. There is only so much I can do, and only so much I can take and at a certain point I have to say - enough. I have reached that point at this moment. Enough. I have had enough. Enough accusation. Enough disapproval. Enough admonishment. Enough dressing down. Just enough, already. I will no longer be carrying it around; I am laying it down.
I would love to fix the hurt feelings of everyone I know, and everyone who knows everyone I know. I would love to go back and change the past as well. Would that I had had a crystal ball, to predict the outcome and full scope of personal involvement, of those around, to my actions, I would, possibly, have done things differently, but I didn't have a crystal ball of prediction. And even if I could change how I did things, there is no guarantee things would have turned out differently, had I begun the process in a different manner. What I did had to be done, there is no getting around that fact. I had to choose self-preservation over saving face. I had no choice; I could no longer maintain a friendship that had run its course.
In the end there are those who can't forgive me, will never see that my intentions were not malicious. Selfish? Perhaps. But never malicious. I understand there is sometimes a price to pay for any selfish, self-preserving act. Even knowing that, I can't say I am sorry for some of the outcome. Often, trial by fire is the only way to refine our relationships. During these stressful times we find out who survives the fires without reducing themselves to, what I perceive to be, petty, insulting, nasty behavior. We find out who can remain steadfast, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness when necessary, without degradation. Those who don't survive the fire in quite such admirable fashion; they have shown their mettle. Do we really want to align ourselves with those who don't value the same things we value in a relationship? I know I don't. Understand this: that is not to say I don't regret losing some friendships, I do, I mourn the loss, but when it's all said and done, I need to form close relationships with people who live their lives in line with my own principles.
We all make mistakes, but it is what we do after we make the mistake that shows the world what we are genuinely made of. I pray that I can redeem myself in the eyes of some, by the way that I live, how I interact, and by the way I make the most of a bad situation, learn from it, and move on into a life of peace and grace. As for some others, I regret the loss, but I am afraid I will never live up to their expectations, so I absolve myself of the guilt I feel, having given up fighting for their approval. I press on, hand in hand with those who still respect and love me without caveat. It is to them, and to my God, that I answer.