What Use Guilt?

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by Gordian Knot, Nov 24, 2013.

  1. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    I posted this comment on another thread, but it is, methinks, relevant enough for a discussion on this subject alone, so I've created another thread.

    My other post was:
    I do not believe in guilt. It is the most wasteful, useless of all human emotions. If you do wrong, wallowing in guilt is the easy way out because you don't have to actually fix anything; just feel terrible about doing it. Same results with confession. They are both a cop out.

    Here is what I do rather than waste time on feeling guilty. If I do wrong (or sin in the religious vernacular) I make it my business to attempt to make it right. If I have wronged someone I attempt to make it up to them. If that is not possible or if they will not accept it, they at least get my apology.

    If it an instance where it is impossible to make amends for whatever reason, I pay it forward instead.

    Can I declare I have no guilt. No. Try as I might there are some things that get through. I do my best to keep it to a minimum.

    In my belief, my approach is a proactive solution to sin.


    I would be most interested in others points of view on both guilt and my approach to it.
     
  2. Roger Buck

    Roger Buck New Member

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    Gordion Knot, I think one must first distinguish what is meant by "guilt".

    Certainly, there is a neurotic version, which is basically an ego-trip. One worries because one is not being perfect according to some unhealthy drive.

    As you write:

    This is what I'd call neurotic guilt and you are best to avoid it, as we all are ...

    However, we also, I think, have a conscience. This conscience feels good when we live morally, it does not feel good when we betray what is moral and hurt life.

    Thank you, G K, for your response to me in my introduction thread (From Findhorn to Esoteric Christianity to Catholicism.)

    There I mentioned that I regularly go to confession, i.e . on my knees with a priest.

    Ideally, this should not be about neurotic ego-trips to be perfect ...

    It is about recognising that every day of my life I hurt people, I hurt life.

    The more I travel this route, going to confession and receiving the cleansing power of the Sacrament, the more I think I see my heart of darkness.

    That is, the dark parts of my soul that do hurt people, that doesn't really care, my hardened heart.

    In short: guilt can be an ego-trip based on the head.

    Or it can be about the Heart.
     
  3. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Hi again, Roger,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I was specifically talking about harm that was caused by my own actions (or inactions). I suspect where we part ways in our thoughts is your belief that you hurt people and life, just by going about living from day to day.

    That is not a concept I would accept as valid. By our very nature we must harm something simply by living. It's the way the universe works. It is not harm done intentionally on our parts though. There is no guilt for me if there is no intended action (or inaction) on my part.

    Still your point is valid that we need to define guilt. Normally the dictionary would do for me, but in this case not so much. A lot that is considered religious guilt (or sin) would not be considered guilt or sin by my thinking. I was not born a sinner. I do not accept that we have auto-sinned just by being born.

    I also do not consider thoughts sinful. Thoughts can lead to sin, but it is the action that is the sin, not the thought. Your belief system does not agree with that, of course.

    Actually I need to define that last sentence down even further. Having bad thoughts are sinful if those thoughts are directed towards someone specific, and with the intent to do that person harm through the ether. Those thoughts I would consider sinful.

    But enough with the thoughts! Some action is required. I think I will go walk my dog.
     
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Careful, G-Knot, we've talked about using the word sin like that, it is even harder to define then guilt, me thinks.

    I think there is guilt that tells me I did something I have learned is unacceptable. And there is the guilt I think you talked about where one values the guilt itself and find that it's hard to let go.

    I agree completely with your definition if we are talking about the latter, and I could leave it at that. But I think the word 'guilt' includes something more subtle, the former I mentioned, and, I think, what mr Buck was getting at.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Guilt is used as a tool to belittle others, to cajole and coerce them to do your bidding....pure and simple.
     
  6. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    When guilt is used by one person against another, it is very often an attempt at coercion. I agree completely. What I was referring to though was guilt against oneself, against one's own actions.
     
  7. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Wil, this is just straw-manning, it's not what guilt is, is it? It's an instance of people seeking to manipulate others.

    It's like me saying 'empathy is used as a tool to undermine others, to cajole and coerce them to do your bidding....pure and simple.'

    You can't just whitewash the argument because it doesn't fit with your views.
     
  8. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    GK:
    I would say the degree of guilt is the measure of the desire to put something right.

    A correct response, it seems to me, is to roll the sleeves up, get in there and fix it. Other people wallow about in self-recrimination and loathing until they feel 'better'. Other people stand around pointing the finger at other people, to deflect the attention. Other people look round for reasons to justify themselves ...

    All I'm saying is, guilt is natural, how we respond is often questionable:
    "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference."
    Seems like a good rule of thumb where guilt is concerned.

    The prayer doesn't say 'God grant me the serenity to sail through life without a care in the world for my fellow being' — and nor do you — but I do think you're making too much of the negative element.
     
  9. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Good call, Thomas. The guilt inflicted by a Jewish or Catholic Mother is a straw man. Is there any reason for it? Not logically... it is a way to cripple a child and hold it hostage.

    Is guilt as a personal feeling (and based on one's actions) is a different thing? I think not. Of the many, many morally or ethically questionable things I have done, I try to make amends (see the whole of the serenity prayer). Do I torture myself or shed crocodile tears? I think not... my family did that enough.
     
  10. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Again, I think people are talking about different definitions of the word guilt. The one where you sit on your ass and wallow in the emotion has been mentioned by all and also been dismissed by all as useless and/or harmful. Now lets look beyond that definition and see if the world 'guilt' encompass something more, shall we?
     
  11. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Thank you Tea. We do all agree that the definition you mention has been dismissed by everyone as useless and/or harmful. I would add that the use of guilt by one to coerce another would also be considered harmful rather than useful. Yeah the latter is an assumption, and that is always dangerous territory. I will let it stand anyway, and someone can call me out on it if they choose.

    Methinks we have gotten bogged down in definitions in any event. The entire point of my first post was not how to define guilt; rather my suggestion was instead of feeling guilty, why not attempt to remedy the original bad action.

    If through my action, or inaction someone has been harmed, my choice is to take action to put right the harm I caused.

    Here is a simple example of what I mean that actually happened in my life. I was told that everyone knew the rules for closing the business I share with a group of others. Someone ignored those rules. The first time I let it slide. The second time they ignored the rules I got mad and confronted them about it.

    Only to find out later that the statement "everyone was told" turned out to be false. Some people were not told.

    So I wronged someone by causing an unpleasant confrontation because I did not have the facts. What to do? The next time I saw that person I walked up to them and apologized for the confrontation and explained what caused it.

    Is that not simple and straight forward? Was guilt required to fix this situation, to make it right? Or was acknowledging that I wronged someone and acted to make amends quite sufficient.

    Like I said, this is a simple example, but the solution to the problem is sound. And I believe, a healthy way to deal with doing harm to others.
     
  12. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    This is where we will always part, I will always call for definition, and I will make one last attempt because between this and that other tread I feel like I'm treading water.

    First, if you want to comment on if a concept has a purpose everyone you want to discuss the concept with have to be clear about what the concept is, what it includes and what it doesn't include. Lets say that 'Guilt' includes three aspects and you are very upset by one of these so you start a discussion about it. If someone argues against you speaking about the virtue of 'Guilt' is that person talking about the first, second or the third aspect of the word, are you talking about the same thing?

    If you aren't talking about the same thing, what is the purpose of the discussion? If you don't know if you're talking about the same thing, what is the purpose of the discussion?

    Second, I will now give you a totally new aspect if the word 'Guilt'. Remember this is not what you think, this is what other people think the word 'Guilt' includes:

    The fact that you think that the person needed an apology, that it didn't feel right to just ignore the situation is because you where 'Guilty' of something. You felt that you where 'Guilty'. You felt 'Guilty'. You felt 'Guilt'.
    I know that you wrote to Thomas on that other thread that this is a play on words, but it is an important to distinction for other people who are not you. You don't have to use this distinction yourself ever in your life, but it might be very helpful for you if you knew what people mean when they use that word...you know.

    That's it, my last attempt, don't be cross if I don't replay on this any more.

    (I also think you where way of your mark about Thomas, you read way too much cooky-Christian stuff into what he tried to say)
     
  13. Gordian Knot

    Gordian Knot Being Deviant IS My Art.

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    Tea I truly do not know how to give you an answer that will satisfy you. I get it that other people might be motivated by guilt to take an action to correct a situation. I do not choose guilt to be a motivator for me. Where is the confusion? What does that have to do with a definition?

    I am not cross with you. I wasn't cross with Thomas in my responses to him either. My replies to him were considered and pointed. They were made with no animosity in mind. I am debating not arguing. Would have thought that you would know me well enough by now to realize that without my having to say it.

    Besides, if Thomas disagrees with my responses to him, he will not be shy about stating his opinion. I would expect nothing else.
     
  14. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    I know you aren't, and I'm not cross with you, but I don't feel like we're getting anywhere. Lets come back to this in a year or two, we might have come farther then.
     
  15. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    ACOT, good point. Very hard to discuss anything meaningfully unless we share a common definition of the thing (or at least an overlapping definition).
     
  16. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    I am confused Thomas, you seem to take everything I say as an afront to you?

    The desire to make something right?? Thru guilting someone?

    Pardon me but this is arrogant and appalling in my book.

    Kudos to when you feel you've done something wrong to apologize. Kudos to using a negative situation as a teaching tool. Three thumbs down to using guilt for your bidding.
    is there a case where it is not being judgemental??
     
  17. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Not at all.

    It seems to me that rehearsing the misuse of something doesn't move the dialogue forward in any useful or meaningful way. We could spend hours discussing the misuse of conscience, generosity, kindness, friendship, love, and get no further forward but become more convinced of our prejudices.

    It could be me, a context thing. It's like outlawing hammers because they've been used in assaults. It doesn't do the topic true justice.

    I could argue 'love is just self-gratification'.

    This is my point. Who said anything about guilting anyone?

    But what moves one to apologise, that's the point.

    I don't see the relevance. I'm talking about conscience.

    How about three thumbs down for always going to the dark place? Always looking for the negative? Can we get away from the idea of manipulation? It distorts the whole context. It's a misuse of guilt, it doesn't invalidate it.

    If I understand the term incorrectly, then please enlighten me. As far as definitions go, I'm working to:
    a) the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime;
    b) the feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation:

    That to me is the voice of conscience. Without it, we become bullies and barbarians.

    How about: Guilt is the measure between how we like to think of ourselves, and what the reflections on our actions say about us?
     
  18. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    And the benefit of guilt is???

    That is the question....what use is guilt?

    I am not a judge, a lawyer, or a jailer...

    Therefor...I have none.

    I've no use for guilt that I know of.

    Of all the things I've had to give up to become a unitic....I miss blame the most.
     
  19. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Thomas, if you've read what I have written about could you tell me what you agree and don't agree with? I imagine that we are talking about the same thing.
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Yes, I think we agree.
     

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