Guilt Trip

I'm wondering something...

So for those of you who have previously believed (I mean really believed) in God, how long does the guilt last after you no longer do? You know what I mean right? That guilt feeling that the decisions you are making are suddenly "against God's will..."

I have an example in my own life that I'm willing to share as a jumping off point but don't let this derail the thread into something else...I want to know about "GUILT" specifically...there are TONS of other examples but this one is perhaps the one that's driving me nuts the most...

My example: I got a divorce. I left my marriage that was already broken. I'm moving on with my life...

I have a lot of internal thoughts about things like, "God hates divorce..." or "If he decides he wants to reconcile it is God's will to do so." or "marriage is a commitment before God."

These guilty feelings have not prevented me from starting a new life. I am attending a support group, and I'm taking really really good care of myself for a change instead of catering to the needs of a person who does not respect me. Now that he sees how well I'm doing by myself I can see that HIS abusive tactics are changing and he's trying to reel me in to go back to him. I'm not stupid. If I were stupid enough to go back to his ass he would be "nice" for about a week until the next abusive go-around. So NO I'm not going back to my ex-husband. But I feel guilty because of the internal conflict that I've recently figured out goes back to my former views on marriage, commitment, and how the Bible says that if a spouse wants to reconcile you should do so...when research clearly indicates that an abusive person doesn't change overnight if ever at all unless there is professional and intense intervention. So I'm choosing between the research, vs. the Bible...the research wins. But my guilty conscience is driving me fucking NUTS!!! Those crazy voices inside my head are not going away and I want it to just STOP already!! It's frustrating!!!!! Not to mention confusing.

I think I'm doing everything right to be able to move on. My heart has moved on and I am no longer the same person I was when I was married to him. But the guilt I have towards "God" for becoming a divorcee is driving me fucking crazy. 

When does it get better? How long? 

Make it stop please!!!! I wish somebody could.

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    Kairan Nierde

    You're up against a lifetime of indoctrination, so don't be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time and tell yourself it's okay that you're not 100% free from thinking like the old you. It's sounds like you are doing everything right. Keep moving forward by focusing on why you have done the best thing.  

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      Dr. Bob

      @Belle, I think one of the hard things for many to understand about religion, even those who claim to practice it, is that primarily its purpose is to instruct people on what should be, and not necessarily on what is or what to do in a particular case.

      What should be is that two people who come to care deeply about each other take the somewhat scary step of making a long-term commitment to each other, to family, to the myriad possibilities that will come of truly sharing life together.  Life can be hard; there can be richer and poorer, there can be better and worse.  Sometimes I think that only deep respect for that commitment is what gets us through some of those hard times.

      Societally we know that divorce has serious long-term impacts on kids.  Any divorce lawyer can speak to the often horrible economic and personal impacts.  All of us who have supported friends through such things have seen how much divorce hurts all those around.  Even as an atheist, I expect that you recognize the religions have this notion right in terms of the general rule.  "Until death do us part" is the right idea to teach people, even if we're only looking at socioeconomic effects.  It's what should be.

      That's what can lead to the guilt, and that's normal and healthy.  It says you care about the general rule, about society and others, about your own commitments.  Perhaps even about God and your faith community.  I'm not sure you want it to go away completely, because that desire for love and care and commitment is a very good thing. 

      The challenge with teaching what should be is that in individual cases what should be is sometimes not possible.   God gave us a brain, and He does not expect us to be stupid.  One spouse can make a true commitment, while their abusive partner really does not.  He may say the words and come to the party, but he never really understood or intended the real meaning of those words of commitment.  In civil law we'd say there was no "meeting of the minds", and therefore no contract. In my religion, we would say that while one partner had genuine commitment, the other partner did not, and therefore the marriage is "annulled".  We even have a whole bureaucratic procedure for certifying that, not because it matters to God but because it can help some people to move on.

      That seems to be where you're at, as far as an old professor can tell from afar.   So I'd say keep to the ideal; keep believing in what marriage should be.  Stay rational as well, and recognize that through no fault of your own what you had wasn't it.   That's a regret to be acknowledged, to make you wiser, but not to diminish what should be, or what can be in your future.

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      Dave G

      For me, I still had the occasional flash of guilt/fear for a few years after I realized that I just didn't believe in gods any more. They started out as occasional events, becoming more infrequent as time passed, until eventually they simply disappeared altogether.

      I suspect that the duration and frequency varies with how intense of a grip one's former religion had on your thoughts and emotions. Mine was fairly mild, as cases of religion go, a deeply fundamental version might linger for much longer.