Good Guilt vs. Bad Guilt

How do you know the difference between good guilt and bad guilt? A helpful rule of thumb for determining what to do or feel, and what not to do or feel, is to ask if doing or feeling something is constructive.

In his book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defines love as something that promotes growth and well-being. Consider these guidelines and ask yourself if your guilt is helping you identify problem behavior and motivating you to correct it. If the answer is yes, then it’s good guilt. On the other hand, if your guilt is depleting you of energy and filling you with overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, it is not good guilt. Worse yet, if your guilt is leading you to believe that you do not deserve to try again, it is very bad guilt. Bad guilt is not constructive, as a matter of fact, it can even serve as a substitute for responsible behavior. I can sit at home and feel profoundly ashamed of what I’ve done but how does that contribute to making amends or fixing anything. Granted, it is hard to carry on but it’s the only loving thing to do. Use your guilt constructively and accept your sinfulness or mistake and then try again, and again, because, that’s the right thing to do. Sadly, there are times when bad guilt can even tempt good people into self-destruction. Yikes! I am not sure I believe in the devil, but if there is such a sinister foe, I believe bad guilt would be one of the devil’s favorite tools of manipulation. A seductive lie, promising that we can profoundly atone for our wrongs through even more destruction.So, remember physical pain is only necessary to guide us away from harm and the same is true of our emotional pain.

Feel your guilt, but feel it wisely.