“I feel guilty, it’s all my fault, I’m a bad person” – a Cop-Out?*

I’ve been thinking about the guilt emotion.  Wondering if guilt can sometimes provide a secure – albeit uncomfortable – hiding place.  Guilt gnaws at our insides.  It pinches so hard at the bottom of our lungs, that we cannot take a full breath.  It tastes like tar.

But, in a strange kind of way, it is self-inflicted punishment and so, by definition, under our control.  Please don’t punish me – I’m already punishing myself.  And at least I know the limits of my discomfort zone.

“I feel guilty.”

Response: “Oh, you mustn’t.”

Result: Twofold

1. You think feeling guilty makes you a better person and exonerates you from the wrong you have done or are doing.

2. The other person’s response helps validate you as a good person, thereby providing a kind of forgiveness.

“It’s all my fault.”

I would believe “It’s my fault” but “It’s all my fault” rings the alarm bell of doubt in my head.  Considering that, by the law of averages something is seldom 100% just one person’s fault, vocally assuming a disproportionately large portion of responsibility inevitably makes me wonder why you would make yourself out to be worse than you actually are.  Is it (unconsciously) to make yourself look like a good person… better than you actually are?

“I’m a bad person”

Cue for me to say, “Of course, you’re not!”  Instead, what I sometimes want to say is, “So are you saying it’s in your nature to be ‘bad‘ and therefore you feel let off the hook from trying to improve?”

Here’s news for you.

Guilt is not the equivalent of soap and water – but of a mirror.  Guilt is not a hiding place to wallow in – but a call to action.  At least the person who does not feel guilty is possibly unaware of doing wrong.  What’s your excuse?

Just wondering… Could be guilty of ignorance on this one.

Oh, and yes, I am guilty of all that, too.  How else would I recognise it in others?

* Usual exceptions apply.

 Scribe Doll

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15 Responses to “I feel guilty, it’s all my fault, I’m a bad person” – a Cop-Out?*

  1. Guilt may be unavoidable. We can’t make it right for everyone. The alternative is the shame of ‘having to’ please – a terrible strain.

  2. Your self-deprecating sense of humor betrays your wisdom on this issue–clever writerly jousting!

  3. Liz Stanford says:

    This really resonated with me – I used to go out with someone who was very quick to take the blame – ‘it’s all my fault’ and he then felt saying this exonerated him from whatever he had done and I would rush to console him. Ha! It really just have him permission to behave badly at will!
    Well we all live and learn !

  4. Excellent thought piece…I’m wondering [aloud] if gulit is really jist thinly-veiled martyrdom…

    • scribedoll says:

      I think, like all things, it depends on individual cases and individuals. There is no doubt that there can be intense, paralysing guilt which is genuine. I’m just poking fun at the habit many of us have of using this harrowing emotion as an excuse to forgive ourselves perhaps a bit to readily.

  5. I agree…but most of da gullt I have encountered is organized religion-induced…jist ask Dylan Moran:-)

  6. Excellent observations. I’ve noticed that taking the blame is often a way of avoiding responsibility. I say, “It’s all my fault,” which is seldom true and many times impossible. Since I can’t fix it completely, I can’t be held responsible for fixing it at all. I’ve also noticed that people who frequently claim all the blame tend toward a mindset of entrenched victimhood: everything is my fault, but since I’m actually not in control of everything, I can’t be held responsible for anything.

  7. Rob Lightfoot says:

    I can’t quite work out if the same principle applies to some actors:
    “Oh, I was awful tonight!”
    “No, darling, you were wonderful!” (Sometimes replaced by beautiful putdown, “Really? I thought your performance was quite adequate.” I think I may have pinched that one from a Monty Python sketch, however…)

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