I have never smuggled anything in my life. Why, then, do I feel an uneasy sense of guilt on approaching a customs barrier?
~ John Steinbeck
Great question John! And I’m happy you asked, ‘cause I feel your pain, um, I mean guilt. And it’s nice to know that I am not the only one who feels guilty for things I’ve never done.
Oh, and there are so many pitfalls out there, but I have realized, after talking with several good friends, that some of these misplaced guilt-ridden situations are part of the human condition. And that I am probably not alone in having adrenaline spikes during the following situations:
1. Police car pulls up next to your car.
Who hasn’t had a police car pull up next to them? Did it make your heart race a bit faster like mine does? How about putting both hands on the wheel when you only had one there a moment before? Glance at your phone on the seat next to you and feel a pang of guilt for it just being there?
Please admit to it! Because if you don’t, it means that I am some kind of crazy person, all alone, who keeps to the exact speed limit while driving near a cop and who feels like I have been drinking when it was only a ‘Synergy Cherry Chia’ natural juice drink that says it may be slightly fermented.
And yes, I actually start to worry about failing a breathalyzer test when I haven’t been drinking!
2. A friend or family member has a different view point.
Anyone have a family member or friend with different perspectives than you?
I can’t tell you the number of times that one family member, in particular, has caused me deep embarrassment.
Once, it happened in a restaurant. This person was making racial slurs and I started feeling like I had said them! I kept feeling guilt by association and thought that the people around us would feel, not only that this one person, but everyone at the table was a bigot.
While everyone but that person was sinking lower and lower into their seats, I got up for a phantom bathroom break and apologized to the waitress and slipped her an extra twenty for putting up with—‘us’?
3. An out of control baby or child.
Who of us (that has children) can not attest to this? When your baby is crying or your toddler is flailing during a tantrum and everyone looks at you! Guilty! At least that is how I felt.
Yes, I checked his diaper, yes I just nursed him, no I didn’t hit him—I have never spanked him! And for the love of God, stop looking at me like that! Oh yeah, this one raises the hair on the back of my neck just thinking about it.
To be completely truthful, I, myself, have also looked at other mothers with out-of-control children and wondered what they were doing wrong. Such the hypocrite I am!
4. We’ve misplaced something.
What about when someone that I have been around lately has lost something—anything. Say, their sunglasses, an earring or some money?
I have looked all over for the lost item, told them I haven’t seen anything, but still feel like they believe I have it somewhere or that I probably haven’t really looked when I have? Or even worse—that I stole it.
This one goes in reverse too!
Think of a situation when you have lost something and just know that someone took your item, only to find it later and then feel ashamed for having had that thought.
5. Did well on a tough exam.
Feeling proud? Not me!
When I was in school, I always felt that if I did well on an exam that the professor would think that I cheated! I was a B student, but what about the tests that I aced?
I just knew that teachers would be suspicious of how I achieved such a good score on the test and felt that the professors would be leery of my good grade, even if I earned it without cheating!
6. See a movie with a sex scene in it lately?
Shame on you! Just kidding.
Okay, who hasn’t been innocently watching a regular old movie when a sex scene comes on? Did it make you feel like everyone knew that you were aware this movie had a sultry sex scene, and was thus the reason that you chose it?
Being on a first date can increase the humiliation of this one by a thousand times—Awkward!
7. Fart much? (I mean, ever?)
What happens when you are in a small area, say an elevator or on a plane, and somebody farts but it was not you? Do you look around and make a bad face and feel like everyone is looking at you like you did it?
Or how about when you drive through an area where there is a sewage problem and no one farted, but you fear that everyone in the car just knows it had to be you? (Or maybe it was you and you are as guilty as the Dalai Lama)
Please, someone tell me it isn’t just me!
Raise your hand if you can relate, because I don’t want to be neurotic all by myself! It’s really no fun to be the only one sweating the small stuff in life.
If I have to sit here and feel guilty for things that I’ve never done (well, maybe I farted—once, but don’t tell my husband) then please assure me that I am in good company!
And I will leave you with a quote that made me think twice:
Guilt is regret for what we’ve done. Regret is guilt for what we didn’t do.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: christopdesoto/Flickr, Courtesy of Author