The Nature of Guilt

More than any other emotion, guilt is a source of human unhappiness. Whether intentional or not, it is imposed by parents, families, spouses, friends, teachers, supervisors, preachers, politicians and everyday pundits. At its core, guilt makes us question our beliefs, our choices, our actions, our abilities and our relationships.

And while the guilty party suffers, the purveyor of guilt gains power and expects some capitulation by the victim, whether it be emotional, intellectual, physical or financial. In the case of religions, their entire existence relies on guilt-ridden subjects, eager to pay restitution via their active and financial support. Human cultures do much the same, imposing compliance through legal forms of discrimination.

There are, of course, perfectly acceptable reasons for imposing guilt, especially when it comes to criminal behavior. But there are plenty of law-abiding, honest, responsible people out there who live their lives in a cloud of guilt. If only they understood that they are free to reject it.