Day Seventeen: Learning Guilt’s Lessons
Guilt’s purpose isn’t to make us feel bad just for the sake of it. The feeling…is trying to get our attention so that we can learn from the experience. —John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Today we are going to take a look at helpful guilt. This is guilt that articulates itself in concrete, specific terms about actions we have taken that may have hurt ourselves or other people. When we apply it to some of the ways we are responsible for our current difficulties, it shows us where we need work. Where we can improve. Where we can take an action, either to make amends, or to start anew, or both.
When this kind of guilt shows up, it is not there to torment us or to keep recurring. In fact, it is there to send us a signal “you made a mistake” and spur us on to rectify whatever that mistake was, if we can.
For example, let’s say you promised to take your family on a summer trip, but when the time came to book it, you realized you had consistently overspent, not budgeted properly, and now there is no money for the trip. Everybody is disappointed, including you. You feel guilty that you spent the money you needed to save.
Do you see how concrete that is? “I feel guilty because instead of budgeting and saving for our trip, I spent money without paying attention, and now we can’t go.”
This is a clear and helpful lesson. Once you see it, you have no more need for the feeling of guilt. You can’t undo the past. You can’t go back and budget effectively. But you CAN learn from your mistake. You can take a look at how you manage your finances, where you wasted money, where you can cut expenses. And you can start saving, now, for a trip later in the year.
You may still feel regret. But if guilt shows up after you have done the work of setting a change in motion, it’s become unhelpful guilt. You can say “Thanks. Got it. Made the change. You’re dismissed.”
If you were with us on Day Twelve, take a look at the list you made. Choose one guilt statement. If you’re just joining, you can identify one now.
What is its lesson? What can you learn from it? What can you do to start anew?
Make a plan. Then take an action,