Saturday, August 14, 2021

Should I Feel Guilty?

Guilt is a complicated emotion.  Sometimes it is justified, but more often than not it is "pointless and destructive" because you may not even know that you're being irrational.  How you internalize your moral values, and how demanding you make them can determine how many hours a week you spend worrying about things you have done.

When I think of my own guilt, I immediately think about my interactions with my parents.  Not my entire family, specifically my Mother and Father.  I think this is largely due to how we communicate.  There is a lot of implied responsibility and hinting at things I should have done, or should have wanted to do.  I think its the passive-aggressive type of communication that gets into your head as an adult.  There are many stories about all the sacrifices they made during my childhood that come up over and over again, with the moral of the story always "you sure are lucky."  I know some of this is probably related to them needing to feel valued (see my post here), but its also a debt that never seems to get repaid.  

This passive-aggressive hinting is the perfect way to prey on someone who cares what others think, which results in guilt. If you are direct, and say what you really mean, then it may be perceived as you being demanding or selfish.  For example, instead of saying "I wish you would take time off of work to have lunch with me" the guilt-inducing communication may be something more like: "You work too much and its not good for your family.  Why cant you take some time off and meet me for lunch every now and then? I am getting older, and wont be around forever."  Usually its more subtle than that, but you get the idea. A simple request has now become a poke at my values, and an attempt to get me to "decide" to do the right thing.  So, the response now seems like if I don't do it, than I am being demanding and selfish. 

I know that when my parents were my age, their family had a very strong matriarch and patriarch that provided a lot financially to the extended family, and in turn demanded respect.  Parents make a lot of sacrifices to have children, and sometimes they expect those dividends to pay off forever.  As a parent myself, I have vowed to never blame my children for sacrifices I have made as a parent.  They did not chose to be born; I chose to be a parent and I understood that that meant having less for myself.  I make it a habit to never give a conditional gift.  My goal is to raise independent children, that will positively contribute to a better future society.  Not that will stay with me forever, and be forced to take care of me as I get older. I want them to create their own experiences and families.  Hopefully I will be part of that in the future, but I am not demanding it.  Hopefully, there will be a mutual respect there that keeps us together.  

So, its OK to feel guilty sometimes, but be careful not to let people use your good intentions to manipulate you.  It is not always intentional, but it usually works if you are at all selfless.  

Do you ever feel like people prey on your good intentions? Are there places this happens outside of family life?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Daily Writing Response 13/300


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