“Guilt is regret for what we’ve done. Regret is guilt for what we didn’t do.” ~Unknown
I carry with me a sense of guilt attached to my actions and how they affect others. Maybe this comes from a strict and religious upbringing, maybe it just comes from an inordinate accountability that I feel, maybe I just feel responsible for everyone and everything I come in contact with... Whatever the reason, I feel guilty whenever anyone around me fails or gets hurt. I could have done something about it, I could have prevented it from happening...
While guilt or fear can be used as a good thing, it can also be debilitating.
You may have heard of my experiences as a Corporate Recruiter with a Technology Start-up Company in Newport Beach. I loved this job
. I loved getting up for work every day and making my one to two hour commute, really I did. I would make phone calls or listen to audio books but even if I just listened to music or nothing at all, by the time I arrived at my destination, I was pumped up and ready to work. I embraced the vision of this company and really believed we were destined for greatness and wealth. Always a good thing to hope and dream for, right?
I was able to recruit fifty-four people in less than ten months to this organization. Their titles ranged from Vice President to Director to Manager to Chemist to Research Associate to Admin Assistant. Many different folks joined the company as a result of my efforts, my buy-in to the company vision, my ability to woo, my ability to recruit.
About eight months into the gig, hiring started to slow down even though the hiring projections were 120 new hires by twelve months. Job descriptions changed mid recruitment, compensations dropped, start times were postponed, and there were a significant amount of closed door meetings. I knew something was up almost instantly. It was like a cold chill ran across my desk and I could feel a freeze, the big chill, coming on. I knew my job was at risk and I struggled for a couple months with the decision of if I should leave or not.
How could I leave all the people recruited? How could I not tell them what I suspected? Massive guilt began to set in and a battle waged in my head and my heart ached consistently. How could I choose to jump ship when I had all but thrown a party every time a new hire came on board? I did finally make the extremely painful decision to leave. That was a year and a half ago. Hiring ceased and one, two, then three Vice Presidents left shortly after I did; I had recruited two of them. Slowly, all the folks I had brought to the company either left on their own or were subjected to a series of layoffs.
I have been guilty of feeling guilty. I am sure many of you can relate. Understanding that maybe my ego was helping me hang on to my guilt has helped me to let go of it. I think I feared that my former co-workers held me responsible. Chaucer said, "The guilty think all talk is of themselves." Like jealousy and hate, guilt is a useless emotion that brings very little good. Fear of guilt may drive us to make better decisions but clinging to it keeps you from letting go and reaching out for new and better opportunities. I am learning to let go, I think it might be a life-long process. But I am not going to feel guilty about it.