Thoughts & Observations

On Guilt and Abundance

At an event recently, I joined a conversation just as a woman was talking about how she had shifted from a deep place of constant unhappiness to a place of relatively constant happiness…but that she now often felt guilty about it. She would look around kind of thinking “who I am to feel this happy?”

This got me thinking about how so many of us have a general reaction to abundance (or potential abundance) that includes a strong feeling of guilt.

And in some ways, I think that is why there are many of us who may hold back from seeking anything more then what we already have.

We sense that we should be grateful. That we shouldn’t be greedy, that we should make sure that everyone has a share.

And this true when it comes to sharing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your best friend at school, or sharing emergency food rations after a disaster.

But not everything has such a direct correlation between what you get and what someone else has.

You holding back on celebrating and increasing your own happiness doesn’t directly make all the unhappy people in the world a little bit more happy.

You holding back on asking for a raise doesn’t directly put money in a poverty stricken family’s bank account.

You treating yourself poorly does not directly ensure that everyone else in the world is treated just a little bit better.

Holding back on celebrating your happiness, asking to be paid what you deserve, and treating yourself well probably does more to contribute to (or at least not change) the world’s problems than it does to make them better. We solve the problems of the world not by holding ourselves back from seeking these things in the first place, but by using them to exponentially increase what we have available to give back and contribute.

Which reminds me of this quote that I love by Marianne Williamson (often mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela):

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”