I've found that feeling guilt does not necessarily mean we are guilty! Especially when it's the kind of guilt that comes from rescuing others. When we are in the habit of assuming responsibility for others, we feel guilty anytime we are not taking care of them. But doing for those who can do for themselves is not always helpful. Feeling guilt at such times, instead of meaning we've done something wrong, may instead be a signal for us that we are assuming too much responsibility for them.
Sometimes saying no is the kindest thing we can do for another. Doing for another what they are able to do for themselves robs that person of the opportunity to experience the positive feeling that comes from being self-responsible. When we do it for them instead of letting them do it for themselves; we act selfishly, seeking self-validation, rather than acting in the best interest of the other person.
Such rescuing disempowers the other person and builds their dependence upon us. We may grow in importance, but they decrease in their estimation of their own value. They become less and less capable, weaker and more dependent upon us as a result. We feel increasingly obligated and guilty as a result.
The more they need us, the more we rescue; the more we rescue, the more they expect us to rescue? Where does it stop?
To stop such madness, we must come to realize that rescuing another is not an act of generosity, it is not caring, and it is not kindness; it is just the opposite – rescuing is an act of unkindness, of dis-empowering another, of getting in their way.
We must come to see that when we rescue we actually interfere with that person's growth. Rescuing is to stand in the way of the other persons life lessons. We selfishly seek our own self-aggrandizement through rescuing, rather than choosing to trust that their life path is especially designed for their highest good, and includes the challenges they meet along the way.
Rescuing is us putting ourselves above God, sort of like announcing, “You, God are not taking good enough care of this person, so I will just have to do it for you!” We may think we are helping, when in fact, we may be obstructing God's intervention in their life. Funny, that it doesn't occur to us to feel guilty about that!
So rather than jump into the role of a rescuer the next time you feel guilty for not taking care of someone, – remind yourself instead that there are times when feeling guilty is a good thing – when guilt may indeed be a sign that you are breaking an old habit of getting in God's way. 🙂