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.”
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.