Guilt is generally a negative term. It’s a feeling heaped on us by others that makes us feel bad and decreases our emotional health. Some of us also heap guilt upon ourselves. It weighs us down.
Is there ever a place for guilt?
Is it ever helpful? I would say yes– and I might consider renaming it “conscience” or “healthy guilt” when it comes from the internal guidance system inside us as opposed to being heaped on us from others.
A working moral compass makes children stronger
As children get older, their conscience is what bothers them when they have done something wrong. Often it prompts them to right a wrong, make amends, or apologize… all of which promote personal and social health.
There’s a place for sadness over what we have done
When a criminal has been convicted, we watch to see if they feel remorse– sadness for what they have done. That is guilt… a healthy response to one’s own wrongdoing. When someone feels no guilt for obvious and severe wrongdoing, society considers them a sociopath.
How can we help children develop an internal moral compass– a conscience– but without the negative baggage that guilt brings? How can we help them not just have a change of actions, but a change of heart?
I welcome ideas from readers as I am thinking through this issue.
Is there such a thing as healthy guilt? Is there ever a place for guilt in childhood? Click to Tweet