When you were young, do you remember when your parents would say things like, “It breaks me heart that you would do something like that”? I do and I’ve carried the emotion attached to that around for a long time. That emotion is guilt. Allowing someone to try to make you feel bad about something. And often times, you should feel bad, if you’ve done something wrong. But what about when you haven’t done anything wrong, or deserving of guilt? How should you feel then when another person tries to make you feel guilty about something that made you happy? Or even worse, when you’ve done something to make someone else happy?
Let’s make an example: You’ve been picking up your child’s friend from school everyday and taking them home. They go to school with your kids, it’s on you way, it’s no big deal because the walk home for this child is almost a mile. You do it joyfully, everyday without reward. You also do it out of guilt, because you know that the child’s parent is perfectly capable of picking up their own child from school, but won’t do it, even in the rain, because they expect the child to walk. The parent never waves from the door to say thank you, or even gives you a call. But you feel bad for the child, so you do it, faithfully, everyday.
Time passes and your schedule changes, you no longer are able to take the child home from school. You apologize to the child and your own children, but explain that it is no longer possible. Several days go by. The phone rings and it’s the mother of the child whom you were bringing home. She says, “Why aren’t you bringing home my child any longer? You’ve been doing it for months now, and now my child has to walk!” Now the mother is upset, she continues, “It makes me feel terrible that you no longer care for my child.”
Do you see what is happening here? The mother is using guilt as a weapon to get what she wants. Obviously she doesn’t care if her child walks home from school. She wants power over you.
When people try to make you feel bad about something that you know isn’t wrong, don’t let them. Guilt is like jealousy, emotions that have no purpose in our lives if we live as our authentic self. It’s ok to feel bad or sorry for something when someone else is truly hurt, but don’t let people use words like “It breaks my heart, and How could you?” to motivate you to do what they want you to do. Freedom from guilt is choosing to no longer have that negative emotion. It is no longer allowing someone to provoke a negative emotion inside you. Guilt can be a powerful motivator for someone to get you to do what they want you to do. Let go of the guilt and hold on to your happiness.