You’re trying to make me feel guilty!

Have you ever thought this? Said it? Has someone said it to you?

It may be true, that they’re trying to weaponize guilt to get you to do what they want, but I don’t think it’s possible for them to make us feel guilty.

We’re the only ones who can do that. Guilt is a choice.

We sometimes act like we have a button on our foreheads that someone can come along and push to make us feel it, but actually, it’s an internal button and the only one who can press it is us.

Our reaction to something is our decision. When someone throws a should at us, we don’t have to catch it. We can dodge it, let it drop in front of us, or bat it away.

Where it gets tricky is the intersection between what they think we should do and what we want to do. When this particular request, demand, or manipulation lands in the overlapping part of the Venn diagram, when we agree with what they’re saying we should do, we might trigger guilt if we haven’t done the thing yet.

Can’t we sidestep it though?

What’s the point of the emotion? To take a detour and sit on a feel-bad bench for a while? That’s stupid. We don’t have to do that. We can bypass the guilt and do the thing we know we want to do, even if it’s someone else reminding us we want to do it.

Maybe you’re like me and the minute someone tries to make me feel guilty, my rebellious contrarian teenage-self wants to do the opposite. Even if I agree with them! That’s just another different feel-bad bench to waste time at though. Fine, yes, they’re right. I want to do that and so I shall. Letting someone else be right doesn’t steal anything from me, even if my ego screams it does.

But sometimes a person will should you and you don’t agree at all. No intersection of desires. Those are the hardest times to resist the guilt, especially if you’re a people-pleaser or a helper. It takes courage to stand tall in those moments and refuse to push your own guilt button. They might throw a massive temper tantrum and come at you every way they know how to get you to feel guilty. That’s okay. That’s about them. Don’t worry about them.

When we say that someone is making us feel guilty, we’re packaging up all our power and handing it over.

We don’t need to do that. There’s no integrity in that. There’s no self-respect in that. They can’t make us feel guilty. Only we can make us feel guilty.

What would it feel like to dismantle your guilt button so it never worked? When you feel something like a should, hold it up to the light and ask if it’s something you want. If it is, get to stepping, as my friend Aaron used to say. If it’s not, blow it away in the wind. It’s not for you.