Is there guilt in your life?
- Do you often think about the things you should have done, could have done, and probably would have done if it weren’t for such-and-such reason?
- Do you routinely feel shame for things you have done or have failed to do?
- Is it your habit to worry about the quality or quantity of the service or care you provide to others?
If so, you probably understand what guilt is and how it can affect us.
Whether you are aware of your guilt-based feelings or you have been operating under the guilt of yourself of someone else, unaware of its impact – it’s time to let go of the guilt and find new and better ways to operate. Free yourself from living in guilt!
There are two ways that guilt manifests in our lives:
You can use guilt.
You can feel guilt
Both of these are very different, but they have similar effects on our wellbeing.
Do You Use Guilt to Manipulate People?
Using guilt is a maladaptive way to express your needs or manipulate others. Using guilt as a tool or a weapon (think: guilt trip) causes others to operate out of fear, anxiety, or threat of losing favor. They will become afraid that you won’t love them anymore or that you’ll mistreat them if they don’t do certain things for you.
Those who support you when you use guilt like this are not being treated fairly or supporting you from a place of love. They are likely doing what you want to avoid a negative consequence. This isn’t anything to be proud of. This is manipulation, and the basis for a very dysfunctional relationship.
If you are fully aware that you are using guilt to get others to do what you want or behave how you want, it’s time to stop. If you weren’t fully aware, but have an inkling this could be you, let’s take a look at better ways to interact with the people in your life that don’t involve using guilt:
- Be honest- If you legitimately need help or support, be honest. Tell people what you need and why you need it. Be okay with the possibility that they might say no- and don’t fault them for it. Be open and honest with others without using guilt to get their buy in.
- Be helpful- People love to reciprocate. It’s basic human nature that we will help people who help us first. If you are as eager to help others as you are to ask for help, you won’t need to use guilt as a motivator.
- Be consistent– People prefer to engage with others when they can predict their behavior. Be honest, helpful, and consistent in your relationships and you won’t need guilt as a tool to manipulate others.
Do You Feel Guilty About Everything?
The other side of this is feeling guilt. Feeling guilt is a heavy burden; walking through life with the weight of the world on your shoulders is no way to live. Feeling guilty can cause people to operate out of shame or obligation that isn’t real. The other problem is that guilt-based actions are not always genuine and they take away the other person’s confidence. If you are stuck under the weight of guilt, you are likely doing things that you don’t want to do. You may also be suffering needlessly.
If you recognize that you are operating out of guilt in your relationships, it is time to start a conversation with these people in order to restore your confidence and create healthy relationships with them. Set new boundaries and refuse to let guilt be the deciding factor in how you manage yourself. Let’s take a look at how you can rid yourself of guilt and stop letting it rule your choices.
- Seek forgiveness– Whether you did something regrettable or are operating out of a guilt-based fear (for example, you believe that your child suffers in life because your marriage was unsuccessful, or you were unfaithful in a relationship so you need to make up for it constantly) it is time to seek forgiveness. Amends may be needed from someone else or from yourself.
- Be Honest– Being honest about your fears, guilty feelings, or worries is the best way to avoid operating out of guilt. Being honest allows for the process of healing to begin and for steps to be taken to get out of the guilt-based habits you’ve formed.
- Seek help– Sometimes guilt has worn grooves into your psyche and you need outside help to reconcile things in your mind. Seeing a counselor, or therapist can help you to work through your feelings of guilt and put you in a better mindset..
Regardless of how and where guilt plays a part in your life, it’s time to get rid of it! The sooner you get guilt out of your life, the faster you will feel better about yourself and gain peace in your life.