Guilt is useful only when first felt

My cliff notes from “Update from the suckerpunch”:

Some think guilt is a useful guide for avoiding doing bad things. This is similar to thinking belief in god is all that keeps you from doing bad things — and both are incorrect. You have reasons to do good (you’re allowed to Fight for something) that are independent of consequences you may face from doing bad.

Some think guilt is a useful teacher of lessons, and that without it they will repeat their mistakes. Fine, but the guilt isn’t an effective teacher if it keeps happening.

That said, there are lessons that need learning, and there is something sort of like ‘guilt’ that can help you learn them.

But you can use it even while completely replacing your guilt motivation.

When you realize you’ve made a mistake, there’s a moment of acute guilt that feels “like being punched in the gut”. Lingering regret, that continues afterwards, is distinct. The former is all that you need to learn a lesson and update your behavior. You experience it as an involuntary reflex. The latter is superfluous, disposable, and something you can choose to reject.

Update immediately when you realize where you failed, and use the terrible feeling to make sure you don’t do that again.

Updating your behavior matters, and can be done immediately — so do it immediately. Moping does nothing productive or positive.

One thing that lingering regret can accomplish is sending a social signal of your penance. Sometimes in groups of friends individuals “form a tacit pact of non-excellence”. Phooey; that normalizes mediocrity. It’s far more virtuous for humans to demand positive behavior changes, instead of punishment. Consider letting go of friendships with toxic elements.

Removing guilt requires you decide you don’t need it, and give yourself permission to live without it.

Emotions generally have their uses. The sucker punch you feel following a mistake is useful. Lingering guilt is not useful.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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