Guilt can be a useful tool in moderation

“When you are guilty, it is not your sins you hate but yourself.” – Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom

I grew up in an Italian-American family, and if there’s one thing Italians know how to do well it’s guilt each other.

I try not to play that card in my personal life – having lived through enough of that drama for the majority of my life.

But today my Italian heritage was shining through. I was trying to make a point – trying my best NOT to play the card hidden up my sleeve. But after much going back and forth with little to no progress, I embarrassingly played the guilt card.

For a moment I felt like my mother – overdramatizing the situation in order to get the reaction I was looking for. Did it work? Maybe. But afterwards I felt like a complete hypocrite – using tactics I swore I would try not to use in order to achieve a desired result.

In order to defend my actions I began to ask myself, “is there ever a time when guilting someone is okay?” Honestly, I think the answer is yes. Now hear me out.

Sabaa Tahir once said, “There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”

I suspect many of us fall into the first category – drowning until we’re useless. We realize what we’re doing is wrong and even disrespectful, but instead of propelling us to do good, it cripples us into doing nothing.

Instead we make excuses to counteract our guilt. We use words like “I can’t” in order to prevent us from having to feel any and all kinds of compassion – choosing quite selfishly to focus on ourselves.

Utilizing guilt as a common practice in your relationship is never healthy and will only lead to its demise at some point. But on rare occasions, it can be a powerful tool to remind someone that life is about thinking of others more than just yourself. Something that “fires your soul to purpose” and forces you to make a decision rather than procrastinating with the words “I can’t”.

I’m unsure if my words today will have any affect at all, but sometimes they need to be said to those who aren’t all that interested in listening.