I think the positive purposes of guilt are to help us learn from our mistakes and remember the lessons we learned; and respect social norms and expectations. We take or refrain from certain actions in order to avoid guilt. That is usually a good thing. Otherwise, I don’t think that feeling guilty does anyone any good. I hate guilt when it doesn’t serve our well being. Feeling guilty does not set a good example for others. It’s so natural for us to feel guilt, as girls, women, and Americans. Guilt is a strong part of many other cultures too.
I want to protect those I care for and help them so they don’t feel guilty when they are not. Here is what I would wish, for the people I care for, when sad things happen in their lives: I wish that they would be allowed to really experience feeling sad and bad but have relief from feeling that what is happening is their fault. The people who really care about us aren’t glad when we feel guilty.
Here are a few thoughts to balance guilt: “I did my best in a difficult situation.” “I made the best choice I could from a set of bad options.” “I couldn’t see the future. If I could have I might have done differently.” To anyone living through difficult times, I’m so sorry you are going through this.