The Human Condition: Avoiding Guilt
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Posted by: Alan Weiss
inhibitor of performance, enjoyment, and freedom that I know of is guilt. Guilt
is virtually entirely self-imposed, in that despite the actions and words of
others; only you can invoke your own
I know this,
because the converse is so true. I’ve seen people respectfully and solemnly sit in a church and
perform all of their obeisances and rituals. They are, for the hour, moved by
the spirit of their religious beliefs. Yet no sooner than driving out of the
parking lot at the end of the service,
these same pious people are cursing and gesticulating as other drivers forge
ahead of them to escape the parking lot.
If guilt can
be so easily shunted aside, it can be just as readily claimed.
felt that a key to eliminating guilt as much as possible resides in the fact
that life is about success, not perfection. (I learned that from therapy years
ago, and it was worth the price of admission.) If we make ourselves feel bad,
low, or worthless every time we’re not perfect, we’re going to lead a
guilt-ridden life. But if we recognize our imperfection, vow to do better next
time, and strive to do
our best in
all conditions, success will likely be ours when we deserve it and guilt should
should feel guilty (criminals, betrayers, cheaters) seldom do, so that guilt
doesn’t play a role for those it should and plays far too great a role for
those it shouldn’t. One of the textbook definitions of
for example, is that he or she feels absolutely no guilt.
The best ways
to avoid and/or confront guilt:
insist on perfection, but simply do your best to succeed against
clearly-defined goals. I once heard a professional speaker say that "fine
isn’t good enough, I have to be great." That’s not a burden I
the "shoulds" we all carry around. Is it really a crime not to call
your mother every week, to allow the kids to do their homework by themselves,
and to forego contributing to the United Way Campaign because money is tight?
3. Find a
reliable sounding board. Tell your spouse, friend, or significant other that
you’re beginning to feel guilty about something, and let them help you analyze
your feelings from your actions. Acknowledge that you might be feeling guilty
about something, but don’t necessarily act on it. We tend to get into trouble
when we act strictly on our emotions without allowing logic to creep in.
5. Get over
it. Excuse yourself. Allow yourself the same grace you would allow someone
else. If you broke a friend’s favorite old record, apologize and offer to make
amends. Search the Internet for a replacement or buy something equally
sentimental. But don’t beat yourself up. Accidents, poor judgment, and
sloppiness happen. It won’t be the last time.
drama on the television law shows when the jury is asked to read a verdict
which is "guilty" or "innocent." You are your own jury. Cut
a deal with the prosecutor before the jury reconvenes.
© Alan Weiss 2012 All rights reserved.
Alan Weiss, Ph.D., CMC, probably has the strongest independent consulting brand
in the country, and maybe beyond. He is the author of 35+ books appearing in 9
languages. He runs the unique Million Dollar Consulting® College three times a
year, has won dozens of writing and consulting awards and is a member of the
Professional Speaking Hall of Fame.® Contact him at
http:www.summitconsulting.com, or his blog, http://www.contrarianconsulting.com.