What do you think of yourself in the world? How do you compare yourself to those around you? Do you remember all the bad things you’ve done in your life, all the mean things you said? Could you write a list of them? Is it a long list, or a very long one?
There are two answers to this: the first is that no, you can’t remember doing any bad things, and you’re a brilliant person. Your Superman/Wonderwoman list of good deeds is equaled only by your modesty and self-deprecating nature. You positively glow in the dark from all that goodness, and small children and squirrels are naturally attracted to you, bringing you flowers that they want to plait into your hair (or offerings of nuts and seeds if they are the squirrels).
I put it to you that this is unlikely. Instead, you are probably going to answer that while it’s true that you may have been a good person on a few occasions, your thoughts have by no means always been pure. You fear that inward annoyance with your best friend and/or partner has leaked out more than once. That time when they were super-happy about that thing at work, and you’d just had a crappy day? You weren’t exactly supportive and cheerful for them. Your life sucked, and frankly, their good mood was just annoying, so although it wasn’t your finest hour, you said what you said anyway.
If you fell into the first category, then off you go and play with the squirrels. If you’re still with me at this point, then here are my thoughts.
My first thought is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up about this. The world is bad enough as it is without you adding to your own burdens, with a thick layer of guilt. Yes, you aren’t always as kind or thoughtful or helpful as you might be. Nobody is 100% good. Even Superman (see Superman III for full details). Give yourself a break.
My second observation is that it’s not about what you did or did not do in the past. You really can’t change the past. The past is gone, finished, done, fixed, over with. (Unless you have a Tardis, and then you should be careful not to accidentally cause the death of any of your grandparents.)
It’s actually about what you do next. If you can improve the life of one living creature by 1%, then you’re making a difference. If you can smile at one person, then you’re making a difference. If you can offer a wasp a drink on a hot day (did you spot the wasp in the photo?) then you’re making a difference.
Note that I say it’s about what you DO, not what you THINK. You might think bad things, but it doesn’t matter, what matters is what you actually do. Do one good thing, even while you think the mean thought. That’s what counts.
If meditation tells us one thing, the first half of that thing is that we are endlessly distracted. We try and pay attention to the breath, and thirty seconds later, we’re off again, thinking about squirrels and wondering how they remember where they’ve buried all their nuts? (Full answer to that one over here.)
The second half of the thing we learn in meditation is that we can notice that we’ve been distracted. We can come to full attention again. Yes, we are distracted by our bad thoughts and deeds. But we can come back to full attention, and follow one breath, or do just one good thing, before we’re distracted again.
Things arise, and they pass away again. That’s the nature of our life, our breath, and of literally everything else in the universe. Every atom in your body will fall apart eventually (probably). So to will your bad moods pass, and your chance to do one good thing will arise. Seize it. Every single tiny good deed counts. Just do it, then you can get back to your crappy day.