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Post No.27 (Guilt)

March 2, 2010

Sometimes the most mundane situations provoke deep – or at least deep-ish – thought.

I was in a queue waiting to pay for a carton of milk a packet of m&ms and one of those Italian salami-in-plastic things. I wasn’t in the fast lane because I have discovered that more than 4 people in the fast lane take longer than one inhumanely overloaded trolley. This is because people in the fast lane normally have few items that you’d have to pay for in cash, so both the customers and the cashiers have to spend considerable time fumbling around with small change … I thought you’d like to know. Anyway …

The person on the course once removed 🙂 from me was scolding her child – wedged between a 5L bottle of fabric conditioner  and an extended-family pack of cornflakes – for pulling a bag of Liverpool goodies off the last minute racks.

“Do you know that if you tore that bag we’d have to pay for it? And do you know out of whose pocket money it would have had to go?”


“No. Yours. And do you know that we’d have to buy another for Wayne? [presumably a brother] And …”

I couldn’t bear to hear any more. I could see Wayne’s brother (I don’t think I heard his name) in threescore years – old, wizened and grey, surrounded by grandchildren … “Just think if I hadn’t pulled that goodie bag off the shelf I’d have kept my pocket money, started a business and we wouldn’t be here discussing how rich we could have been.” He hangs his head. “I’m sorry for ruining your future. I can’t live with the guilt.”

Guilt. The aftermath of the reluctance to do the good thing. Resistance to good.Propensity towards evil. *Shudder*

Guilt is inconvenient. Like paperwork. So we try to figure ways of going around it – or denying it even exists, I think.

Guilt, for me, is stimulating.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying that guilt makes me all warm and tingly, but it’s an eye-opener and a good teacher.

Let me give you an example.

A couple of days ago I dropped one of those clangers that will reverberate for weeks to come. It was a mistake that hurt someone very special. I didn’t want to, of course … but there you go. The grieved party talked and I listened. Hearing what I had done thrown back at me from the perspective of the receiver put another complexion on the matter. I can go around beating myself and hanging my head in shame – which is acceptable for a few moments, mind you – and keep asking myself  “What if you didn’t say that?” I could beat myself to pulp as atonement.

Or would that be revenge by proxy?

I mean, really, what would that fix?

If anything – acknowledging that you’ve put your foot in it should be nothing but the first step towards solving a problem. THE problem. And that is why I said that guilt is stimulating. More often than not, I realise that the “bad” thing I had done would have been the easy way out for me, e.g. not keeping my trap shut or not doing the extra bit to prevent further “repercussions”.

Guilt makes you sit down and take stock. The hardest part – for me – is going from “OK, I could have done it differently” to “How could I have done it differently?” I find that unless I feel guilty about something, I don’t find the motivation to analyse a mistake, see what went wrong, why it did and how to prevent it happening again.

There. Got it off my chest.


From → Misfires

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