The Problem of Guilt: Introduction

I met with a friend for a quick coffee one day, a few years back. She had about forty five minutes to spend with me, in between a busy morning and an even busier afternoon. As always, I marvelled at her productivity, and that in the midst of all her responsibilities she had made time for me, and didn’t seem at all rushed.

I knew that if I had been her, I would have been a frazzled mess, possibly in the midst of a panic attack, definitely yelling at anyone silly enough to get in my way. And yet, here my friend was, calm, relaxed, put together.

Then, she talked about how excited she was for the weekend. She told me she had a tennis match to go watch, and that she felt so blessed to have the opportunity to have a few drinks, eat some good food, and watch a game she loves. “It’s going to be great to know that I have nothing else to do that day, except relax and have fun.”

I looked at her, marvelling, and yet – I confess – with some judgement. If could have defined my thoughts, it would have been something along the lines of: How is it even POSSIBLE to simply relax and have fun? At the very least – during my “fun” afternoon – I’d be planning the week ahead, possibly making a grocery list, and definitely replying to some emails. I’d feel GUILTY if I did NOTHING ELSE except…relax and have fun.



Fast forward a few years. My friend and I were discussing our upcoming weekend. She was going to go away for the weekend, leaving her toddler in the charge of her husband. “Mary – I am so excited. I really need this. It’s been a really tough few months: teething has been hard, David has been working almost non stop, I’ve had a never ending cold. This a chance to re-set, and return with a whole lot more energy. It’s going to be great.”

I stared at her like she had two heads. How is it possible I was hearing this? My own interior dialogue was already going full tilt. What if the baby misses her? I would feel so guilty to be leaving her! What about David? Isn’t he exhausted too? How is this supposed to work? How can she be excited? WHAT ABOUT THE GUILT?



And that’s why these two stories have stuck in my mind, and I have returned to them, to mull them over.

What about the guilt? 

In both situations, neither woman expressed any guilt at all for the enjoyment she was going to experience. How rare is that? Seriously. Stop and think about that for a moment.

Women carry an awful lot of guilt connected to “shoulds” and “musts” and muddied boundaries.

In thinking about it, I believe the problem of guilt stems from two major sources:

  • You aren’t doing what you should be doing
  • You have unrealistic expectations of yourself and need a reality check

Sound too simple? Think it through: if you are doing what you should be doing (your obligations are well taken care of, to the best of your abilities), and you are living with the actual reality of what you can actually do and you are working within those parameters….then guilt should be a fairly easy thing to set aside.

If you actually practice these two things, you might even feel a sense of accomplishment and worthiness. You might even begin to enjoy life a little. *Guilt Free* *Gasp*



Don’t believe me?

Part Two will be coming at you on Monday: A deep dive into the two main causes of guilt, and what to do about them.



3 Replies to “The Problem of Guilt: Introduction”

  1. Crazy. I have been coping with this feeling of guilt for ages. I didnt even think someone else could have it. Really looking forward to reading Part 2.


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