Guilt is a good friend, isn’t it? It will stand at your back when every other friend has abandoned you, and in the face of all reason it will stay by your side, and even when you tell it, “I am moving on now,” it will say, “I shall never leave you; never.”
If only I could find a lover as faithful as guilt.
from Talyn by Holly Lisle
Well, that puts a new spin on guilt, calling it a faithful friend.
I would never have chosen this book from the shelf. The reviews praise it, but say it is dark and violent. The cover looks as though that is true. It belongs to the fantasy genre. I’m not a big fan of fantasy warrior stories. I get violence overload from the current news. I had to give up being a news junkie because the violence was so incomprehensible that it somehow wounded me through the televised sights and sounds. I would never have chosen this book. I am grateful that it was chosen for me.
Cruising the boards on the NaNo site, I came across a recommendation for Holly Lisle’s writing course and clicked the link. I clicked several more, intrigued by the honesty, humor, and sense I found there. Holly has thirty-two novels in publication and earns a good living at it. She knows how to explain what she does clearly, easily, entertainingly. And she doesn’t charge a fortune. Much of what she has to offer is free and useful, not just an advertisement for her courses. I signed up for her “How to Revise Your Novel: get the book you want from the book you have” course. I will never regret the few dollars invested.
Still, I was just a bit embarrassed to be taking writing courses from an author whose work I have never read. Truth be told, I had never even heard of Holly Lisle until I saw that NaNo post. But like I said, it isn’t my genre. And I’m only now beginning to read regularly again. After consuming all fifteen volumes of John Jake’s Kent Family Chronicles in fourteen days, I realized that reading was replacing real life. I had to quit. During the past twenty-three years, I have read only about half a dozen books—all of which came to me through someone else’s hand, insisting I “must read this book.”
As I said, I was embarrassed that I’d neither heard of Holly nor read her work. So I asked which of her of books she would write if she could only have written one. Talyn was her choice “without question or hesitation.” I bought a hardcover copy and began to read—not to know the story recreationally, but to know the author who is teaching me so very much. She practices what she preaches. I want to join her choir.
Back to this quote about guilt. It’s true that it refuses to leave against all reason. Guilt the emotion, is not a matter of fact, truth, or reason. It is a feeling. It looks for any chink in our defenses and moves in on us gradually. And we allow it to do so. We embrace it before we realize what we have done. We befriend it, make it part of our lives just the way we draw our friends into our lives. And too often we begin to depend on it. Need it. Cling to it even while we say we don’t want it. But guilt knows our heart, our soul, and hears not our words. We know it will destroy us, yet we cannot turn away even in the midst of our own protest. We become the enabler, the co-dependent.
Like any co-dependent behavior, guilt can be overcome. Guilt is no longer my companion. I learned to send it packing long ago. It didn’t happen overnight and took some practice, but I learned. Yes, I still make mistakes. But I am quick to recognize them and make whatever correction is possible. I mark them up to lessons learned without fixating on my error or letting guilt become a controlling factor in my life. I have learned to embrace, not the guilt of my error–real or imagined, but the growth and maturity gained from the experience. I have issued guilt a restraining order—thus far and no farther.
I have learned to discard destructive friends. And, like other destructive “friends” I have discarded, I will not allow guilt to influence my life, to be my friend, faithful or otherwise, ever again.
Having broken off my relationship with guilt, my life has filled with Joy.