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Can Guilt Be a Good Thing?

I volunteer quite a bit. When I mention it to people, I feel strangely uncomfortable when they say things like “How wonderful to do such a kind and selfless thing.” I was never really sure where my discomfort came from until recently.

There is a man at the soup kitchen that I occasionally volunteer at, who has been there for many years. When a volunteer mentioned to him that his kindness was an inspiration to her, he said “Don’t be inspired by me. It’s not kindness that motivates me to serve- it’s guilt.”

That statement stopped me in my tracks and made me think. Could guilt also be the motivating factor behind my kindness, and is that the reason behind why I always feel so uncomfortable when anyone mentions it?

I’ve always had guilt issues. I feel guilty for things that have nothing to do with me. It’s a strange phenomenon and I can’t pinpoint when or why it started, but I’ve felt this way since I was a kid. It’s irrational, I know. As I’ve grown older, it happens less and less, but certain things still trigger it.

I think that sometimes on an unconscious level, we don’t trust ourselves to stay on the straight and narrow, so we use feelings like guilt and fear to keep us on track. I understand intellectually that it’s completely unnecessary, but it seems habitual.

Is guilt a healthy habit, like exercising, especially when the end result of it is beneficial to others?

If we look at it from the perspective of energy, probably not. What we put out, we get back. If I’m casting negative feelings out into the universe, regardless of what my intentions are, it’s still a denser emotion and lower vibration, which ultimately isn’t going to be good for me.

There is also the fact that if I’m trying to alleviate my guilty feelings by being kind, that’s not really a selfless act at all, is it?

We must remember our light and that kindness is an intrinsic part of human nature. We don’t need guilty feelings or punishment to feel it and share it with others.

Barbara Buck is a Foundational Reconnective Healing Practitioner, writer, and teacher. For more information about her, please visit her website at


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