Guilt . . . I Have a Few Thoughts
Just hanging around listening to the Patriots-Jets game and my boys wrestling one another like "bear cubs" as my husband so eloquently put it . . .
Against said white noise, I'm thinking about the idea of guilt and how it is used against all of us - some more effectively than others - and how we use it to get what we want from others, too. This isn't a complete non sequitur (601 SAT word, Cheryl!) since a certain member of our family, not be named here, tried to use it against my husband AGAIN today ...
And I've come to the conclusion that guilt is the worst kind of weapon in that it tries to eat away at our sense of responsibility, our feelings of love and friendship - it is most effective when the perpetrator exploits the personal, intimate relationship they share with us. So why is it that something so manipulative is used against us by the people we love the most?
Because it works - in most cases.
I, personally, have tried to make it a goal of mine to not only resist succumbing to feelings of guilt and therefore giving in to the desires of others when they use it, but I often will make a point of telling the person trying to manipulate me that I don't appreciate it and I wouldn't do it to them. In other words, if you have a question or a request - JUST ASK ME! And if you're not ready to hear an honest answer, then don't ask the question!
I think that guilt comes through many channels - religion, spousal relationships (and I know I am not completely innocent when it comes to that one), sibling relationships, friends - but I think the most frequent offenders tend to be parents. The idea that because they raised us well, because they sacrificed time and personal goals or dreams in order to give us the life that we have, because they birthed us from their very bodies - we somehow OWE them something.
I'm don't buy it.
In the words of Chris Rock, parents are "supposed to take care of their children!" Children don't ask to be brought into the world and therefore there is no owing of anything. Parents choose to be parents, consciously or inadvertently, they decide that they are going to bring fellow human beings into the world who will be totally dependent on them for at least two decades (probably more) and that the responsibilities of being a parent do not end until you're lying six feet under ground.
And parents should also understand that they don't bring children into the world to provide them with lifelong companionship - as a parent my job is to raise to totally independent men who will go out into the world and make a positive mark upon it. Hopefully, they will remember to call once in a while and even visit their old mom occasionally - but if those visits are rare then that's something I will have to accept.
So why is it that because a parent chose to take on the responsibility of parenthood that they feel they have the right to inflict sometimes overwhelming guilt on the people they claim to love the most? I mean, I love my parents very much and I do things for my mother because I love her. It makes me happy to see her happy. But if she were to call me right now and ask me a favor not directly, but by hinting that I should help her out because she babysits my children I'd call her out.
I know this probably sounds harsh, but I don't feel that I OWE my parents anything. I don't do things for them out of some sense of obligation. I help them out, when I can, when it doesn't interfere negatively with my own family because I WANT to. Sometimes I don't necessarily want to help, but I do it because I know they need help and I'm in a position to provide assistance and that's what love is.
Using guilt is manipulative, plain and simple, no matter who's doing the (strong arming) asking.
Now, I just hope that I can remember all this when my boys are all grown up and have families of their own and I want them to come to Thanksgiving dinner or help their aging father mow the lawn :)
File Under: Children Parenting Life Relationships