Psychologists who study human behavior know that motivation is best understood on a continuum. On one side of the continuum is pleasure and on the other side is pain. At a primitive level, humans are motivated to avoid pain and achieve pleasure.
I believe we do some things (maybe a lot of things) out of a sense of guilt. I hear people say, “Well, I’ll feel bad if I don’t do _____________,” or “If I tell him the truth, his feelings will be hurt…. And then I’ll feel so bad,” or “I better do ___________ because they’d think I was a ____________ if I didn’t.” They think that if that doing something to avoid guilt, they will be avoiding the pain. But the pain is just delayed. It always catches up.
When Sweet and Sassy were in elementary school, the pressure to be a volunteer was mounting. Holiday Party sign ups were the worst. The other moms (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) brought Easter watermelons carved into flowers, and Halloween cheese balls that looked like brains with crackers that looked like spiders, and Coconut sprinkled snowmen that were too cute to eat. I brought wrapped cheese sticks in a Safeway bag. Boom! I figured the real reason I was there was to make the other moms feel good about themselves.
Anyway, one of the main reasons I even went to these parties so I wouldn’t feel guilty for missing it.
I’m here to admit that I will still do things in order to avoid the guilt that would accompany NOT doing them. But I’m fully aware what’s motivating me, and that is sometimes half the battle.
Being aware of the WHY you are doing something gives you more power the next time of whether you do it at all. Once you call it what it is, you have power over it.
Remember Adam in the garden of Eden? He was in charge of naming the animals, and then he was given dominion over every living thing he named. Same thing here. When you and I can name our Motivation- THE WHY- we can have dominion over it. Here are some “For Examples:”
- I yell at my kids because I feel out of control
- I drink at night because I’m stressed/depressed.
- I don’t exercise because I feel I’m too far gone.
- I have difficulty setting a boundary with someone because I don’t want them to be mad or disappointed in me.
- I do __________________ so others will think I’m a good person.
- I Read this blog so Michelle won’t think nobody reads her blog. (I put that in there for giggles.)
If you’re doing something in order to avoid pain or to achieve pleasure, or simply not to feel “bad,” then call it what it is and sit with that for a minute. Then determine if you’d like to keep on doing it.
If you read this blog because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t, or disloyal, or whatever, then STOP reading it RIGHT AWAY! That goes for anything that you’re doing out of guilt. Doing things out of guilt steals our life-blood like a leech on a plump fanny. But if you read this blog because you feel inspired and connectivity and energy- and because it brings you pleasure, then keep on.
When we do things out of love and passion instead of guilt and obligation, God’s in it. His love makes more love. His blessing makes more blessing. But doing things out of guilt and fear breads more guilt and fear. Like rats in London. Like rabbits in a garden. Like rampant baby vampires that want to suck you dry of anything good.
How about you? How have you stopped guilt motivated activities? What do you do instead with your time and energy? I’d love to hear from you.
Cheers to the Guilt-Free Freedom Fighters, the Mavens of Motivation, the Princess of Passion and the Sojourners of Love!