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Some thoughts on guilt

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A while back I had been searching up some information on guilt. What exactly was it? Was there any positive benefit to it. I'm pretty sure it was someone's blog or status or comment that sent me off down that particular rabbit's hole. Guilt, after all, is often behind decisions that don't put us first. If we feel guilt, we must be less deserving of good things.

The key thing I remember finding in that search was a comment that guilt is what happens when we don't listen to our conscience before taking an action. We ~KNEW~ something was not right and did it anyway, so now we feel guilty.

I don't know if I fully agreed with that, and mentally set it aside to chew on.

What is guilt?
Why does such an emotion exist?

I remember the idea that every living thing on this planet has a purpose, even if we humans don't know what it is. Even if we hate them (mosquitos), they have their place in the broad ecosystem.

If I apply that concept to emotions, every emotion has a purpose - an appropriate time to feel it and a reasonable way to express it.

Guilt ... one problem with guilt is how it tends to be expressed.

How dare we not put our child's needs before our own? We are GUILTY of being selfish. Everyone thinks so! What horrible parents we are. There's nothing we can do to make up for our failings completely. We are GUILTY and must give up, give in, subsume ourselves in an attempt to atone for our wrongness.

Guilt gets turned into a motivator for self-denial, self-flaggelation, self-destruction. Guilt means we are undeserving. We are unworthy. We are less.

I'm not saying guilt was all bad. After all, one of the common traits of a sociopath is not having any sense of right or wrong. A sociopath cannot / will not / does not feel guilt - because they are not responsible for anything. A responsible person feels guilt for what they have done that they knew would be harmful in some way.

Guilt is a valid inner message that an action we've made had some negative consequences. It is a reminder of our responsibility and a motivation to try to make things better.


Not tear ourselves down, but build ourselves up.

If I feel guilty of lying to my boss, then I need to resolve the situation that led to me lying as though it were the better choice.

If I feel guilty of not spending enough time with my DS and DDa, I need to examine my priorities and stop wasting minutes here and there (like the hours of playing games).

What I SHOULDN'T do is wallow in the guilt. Guilt alone is too passive. It can accomplish nothing without action. Guilt should be driving that action.

(I also REFUSE to accept external guilt. I shouldn't feel guilty because someone else told me to directly or indirectly. I shouldn't feel guilty because society decided what I've done or am doing is wrong. Guilt is my PERSONAL measure of whether I made the right choices or could have done - and thus can do - better.)

Because ultimately the truth is


Guilt does not take that away. Guilt means you need to act in a better way because you are better than that.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Like JICKEE, I also was raised Catholic and know all too well about guilt. I grew up thinking that no matter what I do, I am going to hell. (I caught myself with evil thoughts and oh no, off to hell. I used to put myself down a lot.) Then I stopped going to church and met my boyfriend, who is Protestant. He helped me get rid of this burden, helped rewire my ways of thinking, and now I am very happy and grateful to have someone like him show me that I am worthy, that I shouldn't live life with guilt but instead with joy. Without bad choices, we would learn nothing. We should welcome mistakes and learn from them. These mistakes make us stronger.
    2056 days ago
    I not sure that guilt motivates me . Maybe it dose and i don't know it. when i feel guilty I find my self eating mindlessly most of the time then i have to work all the harder to get back on track and feel guilty about that so for me its like a dog chasing its tail. but its a great blog and gave me a lot to think about and see if i can do better .
    2057 days ago
    I. Am pretty sure guilt has alot to do with my weight gain, thanks for pointing that out, so I can think about that, and how to change!
    2060 days ago
    Cool to focus on a feeling like guilt. TY for sharing.
    2061 days ago
    I have a friend who lives without guilt and regret. She is happy.
    2061 days ago
  • DWEBI09
    I feel guilt not because I have to act in a better way, it's becuase I made a decision that that may make others upset or feel not so important. If I have 5 emails of employees needing assistance, I must choose which ones are on top of my list, even if all 5 may seem most important.It's the same way with family, friends and teams. I'm learning just to do my best and get over it.
    2061 days ago
    First, thank you for taking the time to give us something to read and post to - you're right pretty slim pickin's out there. LOL

    Feelings of guilt are great behaviour modifiers - but you're right it's a silly emotion to carry around past the point of it's usefulness.
    2061 days ago
  • DEELB1
    2061 days ago
    "What I SHOULDN'T do is wallow in the guilt. Guilt alone is too passive. It can accomplish nothing without action. Guilt should be driving that action. "


    2061 days ago
    Hey Blue, I hope this is not the first chapter of you NaNoWriMo endeavours.
    2061 days ago
    Being raised Irish Catholic, I just always presumed that guilt was what your mother used to make sure you did the right thing.
    2061 days ago
    Wow, deep, deep thoughts today. Great blog - thank you for sharing your thoughts! I heartily agree!
    2061 days ago
  • _JODI404
    great insights! I so enjoy your blogs!!

    emoticon emoticon
    2061 days ago
    Great blog, Blue! I agree, guilt in a way is positive, but shouldn't be wallowed in, because then it's an excuse. I mean, if I were to have an affair, I would feel so guilty I'd never be able to look my husband in the eyes again. But, if I allow guilt to "eat me up" because I didn't breastfeed my child for one year, then it can become an excuse for not feeding him nutritious food in the sense that I could say, "Well, I didn't breastfeed for an entire year, so what's a fast food hamburger going to hurt him?" When we wallow in guilt, as you said, it isn't productive. So, I suppose there's good and bad to guilt. Something to ponder.
    2061 days ago
    emoticon blog! You put this into very elegant wording. It is so true, guilt is to help us better ourselves, but has been taken to the negative extreme all too often.
    2061 days ago
    Well said! emoticon
    2061 days ago
  • 3G1RLS4ME
    thoughts to think about thanks
    2061 days ago
  • SAMI199
    emoticon You've explained guilt in a way that makes sense to me.

    emoticon emoticon
    2061 days ago
    Awsome blog!!! I needed this. :)
    2061 days ago
    I think I may have to share this with my sons. They're of the age where it's getting more difficult when they're hiding something or stretching the truth. One of them, I'm beginning to think, is really good at doing both.
    "Guilt means you need to act in a better way because you are better than that. "
    Thanks for sharing.
    2061 days ago
    Good stuff here!
    2061 days ago
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