4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5
At one time or another it is likely you too have wrestled with feelings of guilt for a difficult choice you had to make.
Dennis Perkins teaches us the valuable lesson of letting go of guilt in the midst of life’s tough decisions.
In his book, Leading at the Edge, Perkins tells of the dramatic expedition of Joe Simpson and climbing partner, Simon Yates at a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes Mountains.
A towering wall of ice threatened the climbers when in their attempts to scale it, Simpson lost his grip and fell. Fear stiffened his body, and both knees locked tight as he hit the base of the precipice. The impact shattered his right knee sending him backward, headfirst down another steep slope. Yates managed to bring Simpson to a stop part way down as he strained to hold the rope connecting the two.
For hours after the incident, Yates lowered Simpson inch-by-inch down the mountainside. Suddenly an avalanche of snow forced itself over Simpson’s body. Overhead, Yates cleaved to the edge of the cliff. Both men were helpless, holding on for dear life.
Yates was now confronted with the decision of his life. He could hold onto his partner and risk being pulled from the mountainside where they both would fall to their death. Or he could cut the rope.
In a split-second that seemed like an eternity, Yates cut the rope. A decision that consumed him with guilt:
“I stared at the endless black depths at the foot of the cliff, and shuddered in horror. Joe had undoubtedly fallen into the crevasse. I was appalled… For a long nauseous moment feelings of guilt and horror flooded through me. It was as if I had only just that minute to cut that rope. I might as well have put a gun to his head and shot him.”
There was nothing more Yates could do other than to return to their base camp, as he was certain Simpson had plunged to his death.
Meanwhile, Simpson had fallen 100 feet into the dark chasm. He lay for several hours until a sunbeam miraculously energized him with renewed hope. Broken legs and all he slowly rappelled down the mountain.
Three days later, Joe Simpson had hopped, crawled and dragged himself back to base camp. Though crippled, starving and frostbitten, he was alive! Joe Simpson and Simon Yates reunited. Now Simpson could get the help he much needed to recover.
What would have happened if Yates had failed to cut the rope or lost his will to survive the guilt? Most likely both men would have died on that mountain.
Let us be reminded to let go of guilt. Make the best decision you can in light of your circumstances and move forward. Things in the end could turn out better than you think!