How do you deal with guilt?

Bald Eagles Perched.pngThis morning at 4:45 my wife rose from bed to gather her gear and go swim. She is disciplined about her workouts. And frankly, she loves to swim. That goes back a ways, and she is good in the water. So it’s a joy of sorts for her to swing over to the natatorium before the sun is up and get in 2500 yards or so.

Swimming has not come so easily to me. But I have improved, greatly, from those first days flailing away in the XSport pool with the skinny lanes and warm water common to health club swimming pools. So I enjoy being in the water now, versus dreading every minute out of fear and frustration.

Yet I still haven’t gotten the love thing going for early morning swimming. Perhaps it is the latent association with my early struggles. Like so many people, I’m not a big fan of that first plunge into the pool. That goes way back to when I was a frighteningly skinny kid with zero body fat. Yet I recall I did get up and swim with the instructor and a few other nutty souls in the Polar Bear Club at Band Camp. So I’ve been a glutton for punishment at any age.

Still, I do feel guilty when Sue gets up and leaves for swim without me. I used to attend the Master’s Swim sessions with her weekly. But they cost money and I already pay for a full health club membership including pool rights at the park district facility with the indoor track, weights and fitness room and the yoga sessions we attend weekly. So I think I should swim there. And feel guilty that I don’t do it more often.

Jumping Lark 2.pngPart of the latent guilt I feel right now has to do with the difficulty of going places in the winter months. It’s been a raw winter in some respects. And because it has been tough to run in some conditions, I barely stayed ahead of the fat tsunami this winter.

They say you can’t outrun or outride your appetite, and it’s true. My mouth gets the biggest workout every day unless I put a governor on it. So there’s guilt about what and how I eat as well.

Beyond the workout schedule, guilt lurks around every corner of life. This past weekend we got home at 9:00 from a nice dinner out at Cooper’s Hawk, a wine and dinner club a few towns away. We dined and drank some nice wines on the graces of a gift certificate given to us for our wedding last May. So there was no guilt about the cost of that dinner.

We were happy and actually pushed away the last two glasses of wine and had the server put them back in the bottle to carry home. It wasn’t in our interest to get overserved. Besides, I had to drive.

But when we got home, my daughter and her beau were hanging out in the kitchen and in the mood to talk. They’re living with us as they save up for things and it is wonderful. They asked if we’d like to play some funny board games that night, but we were tired from the day’s workouts and the full meal, so we headed to bed.

And I felt guilty about that. Guilty about other things too, like whether I’ve handled things well over the last few years on a number of fronts. Financial. Social. Family. Cultural. Work. Freelance. Art. Writing. Getting out in nature. Getting fat. Getting getting getting. Getting getting. Guilty.

Guilt is the one consistent thing in all those worries. I do know better. I turn over some of that guilt in prayer. Not for relief of the guilt, necessarily, but for understanding. So what is the source of all that guilt?

Oh, the definition is so harsh:

guilt: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.

That is the legalistic definition. There is much more nuance to guilt than hard definition. Sure enough, the secondary definition describes it much better:

guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong,etc., whether real or imagined.

Mallard Ripples.pngI’m even guilty about how that “i” in the definition above somehow doesn’t link up with the rest of the word. It’s a glitch from having copied it over from to WordPress, that I can’t control. Yet I can’t help feeling guilty about it.

My proofreading of this blog often sucks. I read it through and miss a couple mistakes and publish anyway due to time constraints. Then I see the mistakes and want to kick myself for letting that out there in the world. Part of the reason for those mistakes is the time constraint tension that comes with blogging between all the other expectations and responsibilities of life. So I wind up rushing through the writing and leave no time for the proofing.

I’m guilty of that, for sure. Many times over.

The only defense anyone of us has against guilt is forgiveness. A counselor once told me, “You seem to be good at forgiving others. How are you at forgiving yourself?”

She stunned me. She was right. That area of life needs improvement and constant work. I feel guilty about many things. For example: Not being ready to retire when several of my college friends and former teammates have millions saved up. I feel guilty about little things and big things alike. It all raises the question of guilt in big, bold letters:


The plain answer is, you have to make choices in life. Not all of them are going to turn out the way you’d like. So finding your priorities and working on those is the first step to a healthier attitude.

For some of the guilty factors in your life, we need to write them down on a piece of paper and really consider what we’re doing in our own heads.

Guilt is destructive. It results in repression. It hangs the noose of lost opportunity or squandered resources around your neck. It fuels warped versions of religion and drives already egotistical politicians to an even worse lack of conscience. Guilt is the terror of failure and its lingering outcomes.

As for athletes, guilt may make us get out of bed, but it can’t necessarily make us better. That motivation has to come from a genuine desire to ‘enjoy the process’ because it feels right and good and true to do so. When you are enjoying the process, gratitude for the ability follows. With gratitude comes a deeper enjoyment and a sense of purpose. Then you are able to self-actualize, and not feel guilty for it because your choices are founded in more than surface decisions.

Then, when guilt strikes again, you have a line of defense against feelings that drag you down, make you depressed or dwelling in fear. Guilt comes from confusion over what we want in life.

To prove it, here is the final definition of guilt. It will seem more constructive and helpful now that we’ve been through our little guilt journey:

Guilt: to cause to feel guilty (often followed by out or into): She totally guilted me out, dude. He guilted me into picking up the tab. See also guilt-trip.

That is what we do to ourselves and others when we let guilt lead us where we should not go. Guilt is real, and it can’t be eradicated entirely, and should not be. That is where lack of conscience resides. Not a good place.
As for this moment, I literally have a little kitty sitting in my lap right now. He’s a soft little guy who loves the warmth of a good lap. But sooner or later I need to get up and get ready for work. And to that point, one need not feel guilty about doing so. There will be another writing session soon enough. Another warm lap for the kitty to claim. Guilt does not need to rule the moment.
So being guilty over having to move on in life is not where we need to be. Nor is having to make cold decisions over warm kitties. Give yourself a break, for God’s sake. You don’t have to be guilty about everything. Nor should you be.


About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
This entry was posted in competition, cycling, mental health, riding, running, triathlete, triathlon, triathlons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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