Legacy guilt

What is guilt?

Guilt is a thought, an attitude and an emotion, and guilt begs punishment. Given the newer understanding that the Universal Intelligence is responsive, it only makes sense that expecting, fearing or desiring punishment will create the very result we actually want to avoid.

What is legacy guilt?

This is the pattern of a family or group of people holding onto guilt over actions taken (or not taken) by their ancestors, and that has been handed down through the generations.

How can guilt affect us?

Guilt lowers our self-esteem, which makes us feel inferior. As Barbara Frum* once said, “Low self-esteem is the gift that keeps on giving.” She explained that if a parent has low self-esteem, the trait will be, intentionally or not, passed on to her or his children. So it is for legacy guilt.

How can legacy guilt affect us?

Like low self-esteem, legacy guilt can make us believe that we have no right to expect to be treated well or fairly or as equals. It is imbued in our offspring just as surely as genetic traits like hair or eye colour. The pattern can create a co-dependent relationship between the offenders’ and their victims’ offspring, such that neither side is seemingly able or willing to let go of their position. It becomes their identity.

It can become a perverse point of shame to hold onto the guilt. It taints each succeeding generation and sentences the descendants to a burden that is not theirs to carry. Each new generation’s family or group members may experience negative or horrific events (group karma).

Programming an innocent child to feel guilt and shame for an ancestor’s actions can also create feelings of frustration, anger and resentment for her or him; after all, this child did not commit the act. These feelings can, if unchecked, cause us to behave like a powerless victim, or at the other extreme, as an aggressive bully.

Releasing the destructive pattern of legacy guilt can be challenging, but it is not impossible. The biggest challenge lies in finding forgiveness. Visit my Section 9 of my website and do the forgiveness exercises

Additional reading:


*Barbara Frum was an American-born Canadian radio and television journalist, acclaimed for her interviews for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation



2 thoughts on “Legacy guilt

  1. Pingback: Legacy guilt — Our Spiritual Nutrition | myspirituallifejourney

  2. Pingback: Life lessons | Our Spiritual Nutrition

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