My cliff notes for “Transmute guilt into resolve“:
When we feel powerless in the face of some injustice or other peoples’ pain, we have an impulse to avoid that pain, or excuse ourselves from it somehow. [This seems a form of, or a cousin to, tolerification.] Cynicism is a form this can take.
Instead of avoiding it, try turning that pain into resolve.
Averting the eyes of a beggar is an example of a situation where we feel this impulse. We tend to feel guilt in this situation — our impulses try and save us from that — because their presence in our lives suggests that maybe we should be doing something to help them.
And, maybe you should do something! But, for others who are already are working to make the world a better place, their guilt over a single person’s pain they can’t also reach is pointless. They needn’t feel guilt.
Guilt is a tool for us; we aren’t a tool for it. It is helpful “only insofar as it helps you wrest yourself from the wrong path”. If you’re doing all you can already, the fact that you can’t do more is no cause for guilt.
Rather, it’s a reason for anger, at a world where nobody is evil but everything is broken. It’s a reason for resolve, to push yourself as hard as is healthy and sustainable but no harder.
Instead of ignoring pain you cannot address, see it, and focus on it, and turn it into resolve. When we act on that impulse to avoid pain — to look away, to rationalize, to tolerify… — we miss an opportunity to confront the pain directly, and in so doing fuel our cold resolve with it, to power our motivation.
Opportunities abound every day to confront pain directly when we see it, and use it as a powerful reminder that there is work to do.
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.