It’s very easy to feel guilty these days. Especially if you’re enjoying areas of success/luck/privilege.
But guilt really not helpful. In fact, it’s incredibly damaging.
Not just to you, but probably to the victim of whatever you’re feeling guilty about.
Let’s take the very broad topic of social justice. There’s lots to feel guilty about there.
How do I know? Because I was bathing in guilt for most of the year (and lots of previous years).
After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I started mainlining the social media feeds of leading social justice activists. Every day my mind was saturated with endless clips of violence and vitriol, from every direction. It was crushing to my sleep and my psyche.
I was told that my sensitivity to this was because of my privilege. Because I didn’t have to live that violence and vitriol every day.
It seemed like guilt was all I had to offer. It seemed like self-flagellation at the altar of social justice was the only appropriate contribution I could manage.
It was only after I removed myself from that altered reality (by swearing off news) that I was able to see with the truth of how damaging that guilt was.
Instead of finding impactful ways to take action on specific issues I cared about, it instead seemed most appropriate to donate $50 to Breonna Taylor’s GoFundMe page, stare at 2 hours of incendiary videos on Instagram, feel horrible about myself, and call it a day.
What did that do for the world? Aside from less than a week of groceries to Breonna Taylor’s family, I had given the world, you guessed it, nothing.
And the cost? Perhaps years off my life.
Guilt is useless. And so incredibly damaging.
So what is the other option? Strategic Action.
Instead of allowing guilt to zap the emotional energy that could be used to improve the life of another human, come up with a strategic plan and execute it.
In my case, I’ve decided to focus on one main area of society I care deeply about; substance abuse. I’m well-read on the topic and think there’s a ton of low-hanging fruit that holds the promise of drastically improving the lives of untold numbers of Americans.
There also happens to be a great organization in Denver who does amazing work in this area (Harm Reduction Action Center) who I already support in a small way on a monthly basis.
And so I’ve decided that with the resources I have at my disposal, I’m going to support them in (what is for me) a significant way.
I’ve decided, without guilt but rather with cold calculation, that this is where I can have a true impact on people’s lives in an area that I really care about.
This is why one of my mottos for 2021 is “Less Guilt, More Strategic Action“.
More people will benefit and less years will be taken off my life.