When personal guilt is not enough


When the thrill of carrying personal guilt wanes, life can grow dull, and you may begin to feel powerless, even depressed. You may look back with longing on your childhood when you first felt the thrill of knowing you were responsible for the feelings of other people. All those adults with their volatile emotions relied on you, a small child, to maintain their equilibrium. Heady days, indeed.


Just follow this road for the rest of your life. (Photo courtesy: http://thedisorderofthings.com/)


As you grew, did your responsibilities expand to include the feelings and well-being of your friends? If so, you are just the person I would like to talk to today: an adult with a strong sense of responsibility. Now, not only do you carry the blame for the moods and poor choices of your spouse and children, but you also have culpability if your relatives, co-workers, boss, or anyone you encounter in your daily life experiences negative emotions or engages in bad behavior. You stride through life with confidence, on tiptoes, blindfolded, across broken glass, barefoot, while walking backwards, and you do it with aplomb and lots and lots of band-aids.


You think life cannot get any better than this, but then something changes. The adrenaline rush of your power over people and that crazy, wild ride on the roller coaster of other people’s emotions starts to depress you. When you wake up in the morning, you are no longer energized by the idea of trying to make all of the people in your life happy and solve every single one of their problems. Wallowing in guilt over the bad choices other people make starts to feel like a duty instead of a pleasure. One day you wake up and think, “I am tired of carrying all of this guilt. It’s too much for me.”


Friend, I understand how you feel. However, giving up is never the answer. You may think you need less guilt when you actually need more guilt. You have grown accustomed to your personal guilt and are starting to find fault with it, to resent the way it nags you, or wakes you up in the middle of the night to talk.


Don’t get rid of your guilt until you hear my solution. I’m here today to help you re-energize your life, to infuse your life with new meaning. I know you’re thinking it is too good to be true, but believe it, friend, I can help you enjoy guilt again!


How, you ask? By assuming regional guilt. Yes, you heard me, you can assume responsibility for whichever region you live in! Fresh guilt is the answer.


Map of Wisconsin, my adopted homeland, where I gargle guilt for breakfast.

Let me illustrate. I live in Wisconsin. Normally we have a lot of snow in the winter; however, this winter we have had very little. Since I do not like the cold, I am enjoying this weather. To certain irresponsible people, that seems like a guilt-free pleasure, but that’s where they are wrong. States like Wisconsin are the freezers where other regions store water they will need in spring. We keep it here in the form of snow because ice cubes are hard to shovel. But what if this year, we don’t produce enough snow to melt and send  down the river to the thirsty people who are too busy sitting around in the sunshine to come up here and get it themselves? They will suffer, and the reason they will suffer is because I am selfish. I wanted a warm winter and I got it. Can I control the weather? No, of course, not, but what does that have to do with anything?  I secretly wished for mild weather, so I must take some responsibility for the drought that follows. Wishes have consequences, folks.


But, you say, what about next winter? Maybe next winter you will have record snowfall, and then where will your regional guilt be? Friend, I have this guilt problem under control. Lots of snow leads to flooding in the spring. Through my taxes, I help support a state that idly stands by letting snow melt and fill up rivers that overflow their banks. Do I do anything to stop it? No, I’m happy that the snow melts. Do you see how my selfishness has once again brought misery to the multitudes. Snow or no snow, it’s a win-win situation for me. Behold the beauty of the logic of guilt.


Today if you are ready to give up your personal guilt, stop and think about it first. Do you really want to give up that kind of power? Do you want to go back to being an ordinary person, responsible to manage only your own feelings and choices? Or, do you want to expand your power and responsibility and achieve world dominion through guilt?


If you have come to the place where personal guilt is not enough, please consider regional guilt. You are only limited by your imagination. Take control of your life today. Be a responsible adult and choose guilt.

Dear reader,


If this message has been meaningful to you in a negative way, please let me know. I count on my readers to be troubled and disappointed by the things I type. Could you take a minute and write to me, letting me know that I am responsible for how you feel today. And if you are planning to make a bad choice based on something you read on this blog or some comment I made on your blog, could you drop me a line. It would mean the world to me.


Culpably yours,



60 thoughts on “When personal guilt is not enough

  1. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was having trouble enjoying this rain-free winter here in the NW. Thank you for putting a point on it for me. Now I can wallow in the guilt, as I should. Again, thank you!

  2. Mad Queen Linda

    I knew I was missing something. I probably swept up my guilt last time I vacuumed, so it’s been gone a reeeaaaallllyyy lllloooonnnngggg time.

  3. I’m afraid my shoulders are not big enough to handle all the guilt in my region. I’m looking across the river at Washington, DC. Sorry, but even as a lapsed catholic, I cannot manage all of that.

  4. I thought for a moment that you were limited in your ability to foresee the future, but then I read this: “It would mean the world to me”, and happily realized you were delivering a subtle hint at the next obvious step that is bound to occur when regional guilt becomes passe and no longer holds sufficient appeal …. it is then, my wise and all-knowing friend, that we enter into the territory of WORLD guilt. I better practice at the regional level so I’ll be good and ready when the time comes to up my game. Thanks for the timely warning.

  5. Thanks for nudging me to take on my full share of responsibility. I will not take on the whole state–I live in CA–but will take on either the environment or entertainment activities. Given the west coast, I will not take responsibility for Jersey Shore or the republican debates (those are entertainment, right?), but I will tackle what I can to build up my stamina.

  6. You have impacted me greatly. Just last night while stuck in traffic knowing I would be late to my daughter’s chamber music recital at her school I began to talk to you. Out loud. Because of you I lost sleep, then I fell into a deep dream in which I was a baby girl sitting on the lap of an ancient bald Black woman with only one large eye in the middle of her face. She was cradling me in a rocking chair. I woke up crying and feeling so happy. The happiest I’ve been in perhaps my entire life.
    Thank you.

    • You know just how to make me happy. Thank you for letting me know that I caused you to lose sleep. I promise that I will be more careful next time for the things I might have said in that conversation we had in your head.

    • So far, no amount of chocolate has been able to assuage my guilt. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up trying to the chocolate assuagement treatment. Perhaps I should redouble my efforts.

  7. millodello

    Good call. Regions is a good idea. With me guilt lasts but one week. By Saturday midnight I am guilt free. I visit my mom on most Sundays. She always gives me lunch and and then we talk about the good old days and whatever else comes to mind. I’m good for now. Do you sleep at all?

  8. Thank goodness we have you available to help us understand how the universe really operates most smoothly, through our self-immolating , hair-shirt-wearing, illogical-logic-stretching morbidity. And thank you for pointing out that the opportunities are limitless when we consider broadening our scope further . . . and further . . . aaaand furrrrrrther . . .

  9. Gab

    You did make me feel guilty for spending so much time overcoming my guilt!
    There, I have just given you one more reason to feel guilty!
    No thank you necessary, I am guilty of being generous in sharing the gift of guilt.

    Thank you for saving my useless efforts of overcoming guilt from being useless!
    That certainly gives me just what I need to keep on negative and guilty of charge!

    Wishing you
    all the guilt,

  10. Talk to me...I'm your Mother

    I was torn here. I could incur a modicum of guilt by not responding to your plea for comments. Then I decided that I must intercede and ask you not to enlist more people to shoulder the responsibility for everything that happens in the world. It’s really my job and I feel as if you are interfering just a bit. I hope you don’t mind my saying that. I haven’t hurt your feelings, have I?

  11. Dear Yearist,
    Thank you for this fantastic suggestion. I too am tired of feeling guilty for everything that has ever happened to everyone I know and starting to feel that, in reality, a lot of it is not actually my fault (I feel you will understand the inherent scariness of this burgeoning realisation). My main worry is that if I stop feeling guilty, I will no longer be able to assuage my conscience when I do bad things as I won’t be able to resort to, ‘If I was really a bad person I wouldn’t feel guilty about it, now would I’ – this particular line of reasoning has stood me in good stead many times after I have lost my (quick) temper, for example. Frankly, I would have been lost without it.

    However, regional guilt affords me a pick and mix guilt opportunity that is second to none. I can feel guilty enough to salve my conscience and easily wriggle out from under any guilt I don’t like as I won’t even know a lot of these people or have told them what to do with themselves.

    The last person who found a system for dealing with small, invisible and ever present ‘bugs’ that have the capacity to destroy one’s innards was Joseph Lister – I like to think of your innovation as a sort of antiseptic wipe for the conscience.

    Many thanks.

    • Dealing with guilt is always difficult because it is easy to assume false guilt and gloss over our true guilt, and, as you say, use the feeling guilty part as a crazy rationalization that I’m not so bad after all. Some of us (I include myself) have made a habit of feeling guilty and it can become addictive. In my case, I see a certain hubris lurking around – do I really think I am so powerful and influential that I can control how people feel and act? But once I deal with it on a personal level, I’m sure I will feel lonely without my false guilt, hence the need for regional guilt. 🙂

  12. Sorry, but I have to claim regional guilt for Arizona, the big red zit on the face of the U.S. SB1070 was an awesome guilt trip, as are Governor Jan Finger-Wagging-Wicked-Witch- of- the-West Brewer, and John McCain, who unleashed Sarah Palin upon the world. Major guilt for THAT one. Also, the crazy-eyed mass murderer from Tucson and Sheriff Joe Above-the-Law Arpaio. Oooh, and the drought too, because I am a sun-child. Yep, I am a seriously regionally guilty happy camper.

  13. “I still have some of the guilt my mother got from her mother.” Ouch. Tough subject written with impeccable humour. How do you do it? I’m afraid there might be too much truth in here for me. It took me years after my mother died to fill the whole that was left when I didn’t have to respond to her guilt tripping me into anything she demanded. Oops. Sorry. If only I’d known then I could just take on some larger guilt!

    • I think there’s honest guilt and false guilt. For honest guilt there’s a way out – apologize, make amends, make things right. For false guilt there’s no way out – it’s like a maze you get stuck in, and it goes on forever.

      Sometimes when I write about things I struggle with, it helps it I write about it with humor.

  14. Well, this spoke to me :>. I think I am in desperate need of regional guilt. As you described, it used to be me who would be the ray of sunshine, dying to brighten everyone’s days and make life just a little bit better for everyone else. I didn’t care for my own happiness as long as those around me were satisfied. Little did I know, until it was too late to stop myself from sinking, that I had given away so much of myself that there was barely anything at all left. Shards can surely not make anyone feel better; that is, how can you spread joy if you aren’t full of it yourself? Thus I find myself in my current state.

    In any case, regional guilt will surely help! Why didn’t I ever think of it before?

    OR BETTER YET, I will assume GLOBAL, nay, UNIVERSAL guilt! I will take all the responsibility for anything that goes wrong in space: that is, black holes, stars dying out etc because I think that something like that would be really interesting if it happened. Like, I think that the Earth being swallowed by a black hole of sorts would be terribly intriguing. I suppose since these things haven’t yet happened, I’m assuming future guilt, too – or even, hypothetical guilt which surely must be the best kind of guilt because hypothetical guilt has no limitations: you can be as hypothetically guilty as you want for as long as you need to be!

    Surely, this is a solution, if there ever was one!

  15. You are brilliant, as usual. Limitless guilt, of course, is the ultimate goal.

    On a serious side, you are right about how wrong it is to assume responsibility for everyone else’s feelings and action. For people-pleasers like me, it’s easy to fall into that trap. I’m getting better, but I’m getting older faster than I’m getting better. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s