life

Do you feel guilty?

I drafted a really long blog about guilt, then looked back at it and yawned. Yet, the workings of “guilt” in our lives has been on my mind lately. How do I discuss this topic without getting long-winded and boring?

A friend of mine, and fellow author, suggested writing it in parts (thank you Susie).

I’ve been feeling guilty of late, for two separate reasons. Each of them have nothing to do with the other.

I also know someone else who’s been feeling guilty for something quite the opposite of my reasons. It dawned on me how many ugly shapes and forms guilt can take, and reek havoc on our lives.ย 

I’ll touch briefly on one of the reasons I’ve been feeling guilty. I had to say “no” to someone and disappoint them. Why do I feel bad for saying “no”? Those same people said the word to me many more times than I’ve ever said it to them. They certainly never seemed to feel guilty, at least not in my presence. So, why do I beat myself up? We can’t always say “yes,” because life gets in the way. What good does making myself guilty do?

Now, to briefly touch on the other person I know, and her guilt. She has what I call, the “if only” guilt. If only I would’ve done this … if only I wouldn’t have done that, then the whole situation might’ve turned out differently.ย 

She’s feeling guilty for something she didn’t even do (it’s clearly not her fault, but she thinks so), and it’s something pretty serious to consider oneself guilty of doing. She is making herself crazy, coming up with all kinds of scenarios that might’ve changed the tragic outcome of her circumstance.

I’ve wondered if her situation is a control issue … someone who can’t let go because they think they can control everything. Or, maybe she wants everyone to see that she has a conscience and knows right from wrong?

Guilt is a tricky thing. These two reasons for guilt are so unnecessary. Why do we insist on carrying such a heavy burden?

Perhaps we can separate the words “guilt” from “conscience.” Feeling guilty for either of these two presented scenarios is unhealthy. We must know the difference between our conscience talking to us to discern right from wrong, and false “guilt” as if everything revolves around us. Do we have an overactive “guilt-gland?”

There are so many more shapes and forms guilt takes. I think I’ll share them in part two. In my over-active, analytic brain, I think I figured a few more things out about it. Come back to check it out (on Monday), and see if you agree with my deductions. Please don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go have a chocolate chip cookie and add a little more guilt to my pile. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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28 thoughts on “Do you feel guilty?”

  1. Guilt seems to be part of the human condition and sometimes it is not a bad thing if it keeps us from doing hurtful or inconsiderate things, but it is also something that need to be be put down from time to time to free us up as we also have to be true to ourselves and doing something simply because we feel guilty not to is not always the right thing.

    Recently, someone I love was struggling under the weight of trying to please everyone and as a consequence, being constantly worn out and depressed as they piled more and more on her. Because she had always wanted to please everyone, she was constantly trying to comply with their demands and not taking any time to consider her own and her young family’s needs. She was exhausted and it showed.

    I hated to see her so worn and unhappy so I suggested to her that occasionally she should say ‘no’ to these people who took such advantage of her good nature. The look of horror on her face made me feel guilty that I had suggested she go against her nature in such a way. However,a couple of days later she telephoned me to say that she had actually told a client that no, she couldn’t have that meeting on that particular day, could they re-schedule? The client agreed without a quibble and she felt such a release. She advised another bullying and often quite rude client that his idea simply would not work, and once she had demonstrated to him the why’s and wherefores he had to agree that she was right and he meekly backed down.

    Saying ‘no’ both to her guilt at the thought of letting someone down, and to her demanding clients had actually given her a strength she didn’t realise she had. The world had not fallen in, and her clients had not taken their business elsewhere. She had become a much happier, stronger person made braver for her new found ability to say ‘no’. More importantly, she had completely shed her guilt once she realised that in stating her case and refusing to be bullied she had gained strength and respect.

    Sorry to have rambled on so much. It was an interesting and thought provoking article. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thank you for sharing that story. It’s eye-opening, especially for those people-pleasers. Someone once told me to picture the very worst thing that could happen if I say ‘no,’ and then decide if I want to move forward. I just recently had to tell someone very bad news, and it hurt me to hurt them. I felt so bad, so guilty, but I told the truth and did the right thing for all the other people involved. It’s been hard getting past it, but it needed to be done. After a while, it’s time to release that guilt to the “guilt-gods” and move on. Thank you again for reading and commenting.

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  2. I honestly do think it is a control issue. I have this problem… the “if only”. And just guilt in general for saying ‘no’ to people. I was a ‘people please-r’ for so long, that it’s still stitched into my being. I honestly don’t have an answer for you…But I really enjoyed reading your post! Ensured me that I’m not the only one with those kinds of thoughts! I guess the only thing I can say is that being able to let go and just live would be ideal. No worry, no guilt, no control. But for some (pointing at myself) it’s hard to do unconsciously.

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    1. It sure is a difficult thing to work with … guilt. Yes, I think at one point, we all go through it. I’m glad it helped you feel not so alone, but do take care of your kind-self too. Thanks for stopping in and commenting. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. You write about not understanding what provokes our guilt. It is true that as a society we struggle with this matter almost daily in one form or another. But, guilt is directly linked our lack of understanding our emotionally state.
    Stevie Wonder, wrote in his song Superstition, โ€œWhen we believe in things we donโ€™t understand, then we suffer, superstition in the way.โ€
    For the longest time, I had this quote on my wall that said,

    โ€œSuffering is simply wishing things were otherwise.โ€ (Buddhism)

    Itโ€™s no stretch to recognize I found this wisdom to be worthy of my wall. Yet it has never resolved my issue with the matter of personal self deprivation and/or criticism.
    Therefore, I have concluded that guilt is often a matter of mislabeling. Itโ€™s a misunderstanding we often struggle with between reasoning and personal convictions that we inappropriately deal with emotionally, assigning it to guilt.
    I realize I have somewhat over simplified the matter, but overall I believe it is more the rule than the exception.
    Suffering is a necessity of life.

    “No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined.
    No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.”

    Harry Emerson Fosdick

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  4. I think it’s a common thing for most of us to feel guilty when we have to say no to someone. We want to be helpful. We want to be seen as generous. But it’s not always possible… or healthy. But I think guilt is something that’s been ingrained in us. I’m not sure why though. Society? Religion? Some amount of guilt is good for us and even healthy in certain situations. But we (especially women) seem to take it to extremes.

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    1. For sure Terri, we do tend to take it to extremes. I do think there is a place for healthy-guilt, although for some reason the word “guilt” sounds negative. I like to think of it as our conscience talking to us. I have so much more to say on the subject in my next post, but even that won’t cover the complexity of it all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  5. A good, thoughtful article/post. I feel guilty about so many things and I think I must really like carrying them around otherwise I would turn loose and let them go. The past is over; can’t go back; and because of those actions other good things happened even though the first action was not so good. Totally confusing.

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    1. Hey Linda ~ Yes, I don’t know why we hang on. In my next draft I had 3 more guilt reasons already written, and been thinking of so many more. I can’t get over how the human condition is so run by guilt, including things we aren’t even guilty of doing. Well, anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Be careful of those packages. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  6. I, too, feel guilty. Which begs the questions “Who deserves more guilt, the one with the strong shoulders or the one who gladly hands over their burden?” Unfortunately, I suppose in the end, it’s the one who accepts the load and not those that shed theirs … which only adds to the burden of those with perceived strong shoulders.

    But for today, I propose a hike in the woods!

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    1. Hi Dave ~ Thanks for your input on the topic. I like your idea … a hike in the woods. I plan to do that, and some quiet meditation time very soon. I’m planning a whole vacation around it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  7. I gave up on guilt a long time ago. It never did anything good. I’d rather thing about my actions before I commit them, then let them go once the action is taken. The past is done, good and bad. Or maybe I’m a robot with no emotions…hope this helps.

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    1. Thanks Christopher. Every little bit helps. Your conscience seems to be working right in order … before you take action and not afterward. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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