Guilt. That ever looming emotion attributed to Jews and Catholics alike, but actually pretty well known to most of us regardless of our religious affiliations (unless you happen to be a sociopath, which is another blog post altogether.)
Dictionary.com gives this definition for “guilt”: A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
I recently had an “emergency” coaching session with someone. This character, Guilt, was playing a key role. My client is a young mother of two who was feeling very guilty for saying “No” to a friend who wanted a favor, or actually for just considering saying the word NO. She felt she didn’t have a “valid” enough excuse. She felt like a good friend would say yes, should say yes.
Last week’s post talked about the “shoulds”. That word, “should”, pops up often in relation to this topic of guilt also. We feel badly because we think we “should” say or do or be a certain thing. Like the definition mentioned above, most of these shoulds fall into the “imagined” category.
Guilt does actually serve a very useful purpose. [Note: Guilt is NOT there to be used as a manipulative tool to make other people behave the way we want them to behave. The proverbial guilt trip is a trip you do NOT want to take yourself on, or to take anyone else on, please just don’t.]
Guilt is there to show us our values. When we feel guilty about something it is usually because one or more of our core values are not in line with whatever it is we have said or done.
The young mother I spoke of earlier had a strong value around being a good friend. To her, being a good friend meant being dependable. On the day in question she really wanted to spend the day having quality time with her family, but felt torn, and guilty about saying no to her friend. When she realized that her value around being dependable could be expressed by being dependable to her own family, and that she could find another day and another way to show her friend that dependability, she was relieved from her guilt.
Are you feeling guilty about something?
What is the value you hold dear that is connected to this guilt?
How can you express that value and still make the choice that you want?
Answering these questions may help you make the best use of guilt, by discovering the values that make you so unique. Once you discover your values you can let go of the guilt, it will have served it’s purpose.
Here’s to honoring your values,