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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Guilt


It was a hundred years ago, back in my twenties, I was in a class where we were talking about guilt. Everyone in the class was talking about their various experiences of guilt, telling their stories, talking about the times they felt deep senses of guilt and shame. I remember sitting there in that moment racking my brain for times when I felt guilt. But I couldn't come up with one.

Weird, right?

When I was asked for a response I essentially reported that, that I couldn't think of any significant guilt. The response I got from the class really stuck with me.

My peers in the class reacted with doubt, essentially saying Of course you feel guilt, that's bullshit. One guy even looked right at me and said, Maybe you're a sociopath. Sociopaths don't feel guilt. Well, I heard that, sat, and waited for the class to be over.

A hundred years later, and something sparked that moment for me today. Of course I'm not a sociopath. And I still don't experience guilt much. Or shame. And there is a good reason for that. 

According to one online definition I found Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.  Reread that. Compromising one's own standard of conduct. Guess what, I just don't do that. I know I am weird; I talk about things like this and I run the risk of coming across awkwardly, like one who is kind of self-centered. But it's really more the opposite. I simply think too much. I have the need to pick apart my own authenticity, my own ethical standard. It's fricking exhausting sometimes.

The thing is, I know that I try hard to do the right thing. I make mistakes. I definitely do the wrong things sometimes. But I can not carry guilt around. When I do things wrong, I do as much as I possibly can to learn from it, to correct it, to make amends. So why oh why should I feel guilt or shame about errors? Why should you? What is the use of guilt?

Learn from your mistakes.
Make amends.
Forgive yourself.
And fricking move on - because carrying guilt around helps no one.




What is the value or benefit of guilt?
Religions often use and abuse the administration of guilt to control people. Other institutions often use guilt to motivate or shame. But I am here to go out on a limb publicly to say that I find guilt POINTLESS. I REFUSE to wallow in it. I refuse to act like it is a useful emotion. I refuse to condone anyone carrying it around. And I encourage you to let your guilt go too.






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