Guilt is one nasty son of a bitch.
After that scathing appraisal, here are two questions to ask yourself.
Do I use guilt as a weapon?
Do I use guilt to get what I want?
Just to clarify – the sort of guilt I’m referring to in this post is the ‘guilt trip’ variety. If you stole from someone or cheated on your spouse you should feel guilty but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
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Let’s dive into reasons why people use guilt and why they should stop using guilt to get what they want.
Sometimes guilt works
The tricky part about using guilt as a weapon is that it often works. We may find it reasonably easy to guilt-trip people into doing what we want.
Great, you might be thinking if it works, surely it can’t be that bad!
That’s where you would be wrong. The problem is it comes at a huge price.
Using guilt is a habit
Using guilt can unfortunately become a habit. Like any habit, it can develop through repetition and consistency.
As mentioned earlier, when something works we tend to run with it. What we fail to realize is the long-term emotional consequences of using guilt to have our needs met.
They haven’t learned how to communicate their needs properly
Parents can be masters at using guilt to get what they want.
This may be because they haven’t learned a better way. They may have learned to use guilt to get what they want from their own parent’s behavior. It could be behavior passed down from generation to generation.
Or perhaps they didn’t learn the emotional skills required to build and maintain healthy relationships.
If you suspect you may be dealing with emotionally immature parents, the two books below can help.
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Deal with Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
- Recovering From Emotionally Immature Parents: Practical Tools to Establish Boundaries and Reclaim Your Emotional Autonomy by Lindsay C. Gibson (I read this book myself and found it eye-opening and a game-changer in my own life.)
If you want to have a healthy relationship with someone, using guilt to get what you want isn’t the way to go. Sure you might achieve your desired result (at least in the beginning) but you risk damaging the relationship.
If you are on the receiving end of a guilt trip, the post 20 Ways to Stop Feeling Guilty All of the Time can help.
Let’s look at why you need to stop using guilt to get what you want.
Using guilt builds resentment
Here’s the kicker. Guilt breeds resentment. Resentment can lead to anger and even hatred. Both kill joy and love in their tracks.
You may think you are using guilt as a way of helping someone. In your mind, you are doing it for them. You think you are guilt-tripping them to make their lives better.
Time to get real on this one folks, if you are using guilt as a weapon to get what you want – you are doing it for yourself.
Guilt can destroy your relationship
Using guilt to get what you want is selfish, controlling, and manipulative.
None of these behaviors nurture relationships. In fact, they can destroy them.
While you might think you are coming from a place of caring, the person on the receiving end will most likely feel you don’t care at all.
If you want to show people you genuinely care, read through the post 20 Ways to Show Genuine Interest in People’s Lives.
Instead of playing games and making someone feel guilty, how about asking them outright for what you want? Have a heartfelt, honest conversation about your relationship, how much you care about the person, and exactly what you need.
Perhaps you want to spend more quality time with someone. Be brave and tell them how you feel. Don’t assume they know what you are thinking and don’t try to guilt them into spending time with you.
If you ask someone for something and the answer is yes – that’s excellent. If the answer is no. Suck it up and move on.
If you feel hurt or disappointed by their answer, then your priority needs to be on processing and releasing your emotions, NOT on making the person feel guilty for their decision, trying to get them to change their mind, or hurting them back out of spite. You are entitled to your feelings of hurt or disappointment, but it’s how you deal with those emotions, that reflects on the success and closeness of your relationships.
If you are drowning in guilt, these books may help –
- Escaping Toxic Guilt: Five Proven Steps to Free Yourself from Guilty for Good! by Susan Carrell
- Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, and Feeling Guilty…And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly and Unapologetically Being Yourself by Dr. Aziz Gazipura PsyD
Stop using guilt
We can all be tempted to use guilty from time to time. Make sure using guilt to get what you want, doesn’t become an unhealthy habit in your relationships.
Stop using guilt to get what you want. Guilt breeds resentment and contempt. Don’t let resentment be part of your life. Instead, choose compassion, joy, and love.
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