Guilt is defined differently by different cultures, but also by the different times in which we live. In the past, slavery was tolerated and accepted by many people. For the most part, those who owned slaves felt no guilt. As time passed, people came to realize that slavery was wrong. In this situation we see a positive side of guilt. To take away one’s freedom and to demand hard work without pay or hope of advancement came to be understood as a cancer to society.
As more and more people became enlightened to the truth that all men (and women) were created equal, the nation’s conscience was disturbed and changes happened. Guilt played a positive role, and, even after slaves were set free, guilt continued to play a useful role to those who decided to help right the wrongs committed against their fellowmen.
Step Eight says that we are to “Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.” But, once we determine we are meant to do something, we can let go of any hold guilt has had over us. It takes time, but often it begins with simply the intention to make right what was wrong. If circumstances are such that we are unable to right the wrongs, then intention and prayer become the tools to set us free.
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