Sometimes there is a fine line between the good kind and the bad kind…
Guilt can be a good thing when it gets your attention about something you need to change in your life or calls attention to a wrong you have done that needs to be righted. It’s your conscience telling you to pause and rethink your actions. This is good when we need to change our actions to better reflect our morals, values and priorities.
guilt: 1) responsibility for having done something wrong and especially something against the law; 2) a feeling of shame or regret as a result of bad conduct
However, there is such a thing as “bad guilt” This is when you obsess about something you feel is your responsibility but should not really BE your responsibility in the first place. Or when you have done nothing wrong, but feel like you should “fix” something. Or when you are overly worried about what someone else thinks/feels and change your behavior to make them happy, sacrificing your own well being to do so.
guilt trip: 1) to cause feelings of guilt in someone: to try to manipulate the behavior of someone by causing feelings of guilt; 2) an instance of feeling guilty: guilt or blame caused especially by another person’s comment or accusation.; 3) (informal) a feeling of guilt that you get when someone suggests that you have done something wrong or that you are not doing something that you should. ~Merriam-Webster
Guilt trips are a real thing and people are very good at using them to get what they want. It’s a form of manipulation, convincing the recipient that they are selfish if they don’t comply with the wishes of another. Over the course of my lifetime, I have listened to thousands of guilt trips aimed at me. Because I didn’t realize that’s what they were at the time, and later, because I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for myself, those guilt trips were very effective. Looking back now, I almost have to chuckle as I see them as they really were… an adult having a childlike temper tantrum to get their way.
I’m learning, with the help of my hubby and others, how to stand up for myself and say ‘no” to things that are unhealthy for me. I’m learning to set boundaries with the people I love and hold my head high even when they throw their tantrum (guilt trip) to try to shame me into my old habit of caving in to make them “happy.” I’m learning that you can’t “make” anyone happy…especially someone who doesn’t want to be responsible for their own happiness. I’m learning to question the automatic feelings of guilt that pop up every time my opinion differs from others…did I do something wrong? If not, the feelings are completely unfounded.
As I practice the art of questioning my feelings, I am finding my heart is so much lighter. The weight of responsibility for others’ happiness has finally loosened it’s grip and I am beginning to feel the first flutter of freedom in my soul.
Do you have some wisdom to add to the question of guilt? I am still learning and growing and would love to hear your thoughts…