We can see the results of guilt and guilt trips everywhere around the world. Guilt, and the co-dependent relationships it can create, affects everyone, everywhere – individuals, families, and even entire communities.
Some hundreds of years ago, Europeans overtook North America (specifically Canada), subjugated the indigenous peoples, and then tried to extinguish them and their culture. We now have the government and the indigenous peoples involved in a complex guilt-based co-dependent arrangement: one side paying seemingly permanent restitution for albeit heinous crimes against the other, and the other living in a victim mentality that keeps the restitution coming. Neither side is prepared to stop, for whatever their reasons might be. One possibility is that a new relationship would need to be built, and, as Marshall Goldsmith says : “After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them.” — Marshall Goldsmith | Mojo
The situation here in Canada is worsening as leaders continually fail to provide for their community’s physical/spiritual needs. Their people fail to thrive and recently there has been a drastic increase in the number of youth committing suicide. Those in charge just keep on seeking more money and more services from the federal government.
The lesson is that rescuing others from meeting their challenges solves nothing; in fact, it perpetuates ongoing issues. We can give information, assistance and leadership so that people become enabled and empowered, but we cannot “fix”.
This sort of arrangement can also be seen in families in which a parent continually steps in to divert the normal consequences for a child’s actions. There are many examples of this in the news; one such being the case of Ethan Couch’s vehicular manslaughter, while drunk, of four people. His lawyer, hired by his affluent mother, used a defense of “affluenza” and the child received a sentence of 10 years’ probation – for killing four people.
In my family, a guilt-based unit formed the instant my adoptive parents learned they would be receiving me as their second child. They had adopted my sister first, and four years later, they adopted baby me. Forty years later, my mother told me that she had “always regretted not telling my sister” (my four-and-a-half-year-old sister) “that they were getting me”. Because of their choice, my sister was not given the opportunity to prepare for my arrival; nor was she welcomed into helping to care for me, and in fact her offers to help were apparently spurned – quite possibly because my parents feared that she would harm me. And sadly, they were right – she did. There ensued years of bullying and temper tantrums directed at me. Her temper tantrums always paid off too, because my parents would just give her whatever she wanted.
They treated her like a victim, because she was one. My sister treated me like an interloper, an uninvited, unwelcome guest. If she harmed me, my parents would ridicule my hurt and say, “Oh, stop it.” “She doesn’t hate you, she loves you.” “She was only kidding around.” Or “It was a love tap.” Unfortunately though, it felt like I was the one being punished. Not only were my feelings ignored and even ridiculed; I also didn’t receive the so-called benefits that my sister received for her immature behaviour. Additionally, I failed to learn how to stand up for myself, how to protect myself from unwanted advances, or that hitting does not equal loving.
The end result of such co-dependent relationships is that everyone is harmed. Those living with guilt and shame for their own poor choices (or for those of their predecessors), those who fail to learn to be responsible for their actions and those whom they victimize, and all those who must stand by and observe this dangerous dance, are damaged.
What can we do about it?
In order to change this incredibly destructive pattern, we can take a few simple steps toward absolving guilt:
- Don’t add insult to injury by pretending that no one was harmed
- If we’ve caused harm, let us own up to it. Acknowledge that our victim suffered an offense and accept that we are responsible for it
- Let us make meaningful restitution with restorative justice
- Let us ask forgiveness from the injured party
- And, finally, let us forgive ourselves. Visit my website to learn about forgiveness: http://www.ourspiritualnutrition.com/is06.html#Forgiveness