Guilt sucks

Guilt sucks

guilt_tripI worked in an Emergency Room after graduating from college. There was a nurse there that I never got that close to, but I always really liked. To be honest, I think she scared me a little. I think she scared everyone a little. But I admired her strength and no nonsense way and she was FUNNY. She had such perfect delivery of even mundane information; I paid attention and she always made me laugh.

So I have never forgotten one of her particularly poignant declarations. I have no idea why it came up but she said it: GUILT SUCKS. I didn’t really get it at the time, but have come to realize that she couldn’t be more right.

Making a choice out of guilt renders the action of choosing utterly powerless. It’s as if you had no choice at all.

You know when you get your ballot in the mail and there’s a candidate running uncontested? Doesn’t mean much to tick that little box then, does it? Or let’s say you’re offered vanilla ice cream. Accepting the offer just means that you accepted ice cream, not that you specifically wanted vanilla. But what if you went into a Baskin Robbins and had 31 flavors to choose from? Then the choice of vanilla means something. You’ve exerted your free will and there is power in that, even if the only outcome is what kind of ice cream you eat.

Worse still, acting out of guilt is dishonest. And when there is a lot at stake, the consequences can be enormous. Consider staying in a marriage you know you want out of because you feel bad for your spouse, or you stay “for the kids”. These are just justifications for making a choice you know isn’t serving you. And the consequences of that could be tremendous resentment by everyone, wasted time and suffering. Or say you’re doing everything for everyone else all the time with no regard for your own self care. The price you pay could be your own health.

Often, the reason we say yes when we want to say no, is that we don’t want to have a difficult conversation. We don’t want to tell the truth. American’s are, in general, horrible at confrontation (East Coasters excepted). Yet, don’t we like to think that we’re truthful people who value honesty?

Time to get real, people. Notice when you act out of guilt and make a different choice. See how it changes your life. There is POWER in TRUTH. Authenticity — truth telling, vulnerability, risk-taking, realness — this is where we connect. It makes space for understanding and love, and more genuine relationships. It will set you free.