The Guilty Way


The Guilty Way is one of many ways of coping that starts with the lie that says: the core of who you are is messed up, not good, not reliable, not able.

The lie might at first be spoken directly, verbally, by a parent or a relative, a friend or a preacher or a teacher. It might be communicated indirectly, more subtly, through over-protectiveness or unreasonable discipline.  The lie is different than a benevolent guardian saying, “I want you to benefit from some correction and direction from me because I want you to be able to live your life to the full.” It attacks the heart; it plants deep seeds of doubt about the wholeness of simply being human.

It teaches the follower to doubt everything about themselves. Their feelings, their thoughts are never quite right, never quite good enough. They have little sense of how to navigate through their own life because how can they trust themselves? They are a beating heart that believes they beat the wrong way. The Guilty Way teaches them to survive by either following other people or following idealistic “rules” outside of themselves. It creates a constant ongoing checklist in the mind,  a constant and fearful battle to figure out the next little step. Sometimes those around us who have labored in it longer than we have cheer us on. Many times they do so in jest… or more blatantly with little comments, facial expressions or reactions.

It can tinge in almost any situation. In making choices about what to wear, what to eat, what to say… who to invite, who to call, who to visit… where to buy groceries, how often to clean the house, how to arrange the furniture… what kind of job to have, what kind of friends to have, what kind of wedding to have… where to go on vacation, what kind of bathing suit to wear, what kind of activities to do… what kind of haircut to get, what kind of makeup to wear, what kind of music to listen to, what kind of movies to watch… who to talk to at the party, where to sit in church, how much to charge your customers [if you’re acquainted with this Guilty Way as I am, feel free to add to this list in a comment!… ]

It can become so insidious and accepted that we live our lives turned inside out. We live to exclusively please others or fulfill impossible expectations because we doubt that it’s good enough for us to make choices with our own happiness in mind. We doubt that paying attention to our real desires and thoughts can lead us towards the good life. The Guilty Way wraps around our hearts like a snake, squishing out our life, our spontaneity, the vibrant, good and healthy us.  And it is never quite satisfied.

More on a DIFFERENT way this Friday…

Categories : Depression



Excellent Carla! My ‘go to’ expression about myself is how ‘messed up’ I am, or how ‘screwed up’ I am. It’s always been this way. I see my core being as fallen, dark, sinful and unable to do or be the right thing; untrustworthy. Looking forward to Friday’s post!



Thanks Jeanette~ I can totally relate to what you say. My counselor told me many many times that my heart was good, and now I’m taking over myself. It’s been a process for me of coming to believe that it is true. I wish the same for you, as you work through your own process.


Boy oh boy… “me” to a “T”…
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to change.I’ve always been taught that to live life apart from doing and doing for everyone else is sinfully selfish.
I don’t have any valid least not on my own. I don’t want to live like this.


Hi Viv~ I don’t want to live like this either! Being constantly burdened under this “way” was a big reason why I sought out a good counsellor. It is in learning the root reasons for why I struggle with this way of coping that is helping me find the freedom beyond it. Being able to recognize what we are struggling with and coming to a place of “I am sick and tired of this” can be a powerful place to be! All the best to you Viv.



I used to believe this garbage too. Then I learned that an empty vessel does no good for anyone. Before I can help others, I have to have something in me—Love for myself. Until I can love myself, everything that I give out is only an imitation of the real thing. Even the Bible tells you to “love your neighbor as yourself”. In other words, if you don’t love yourself first, you can’t love your neighbor. Most people only hear, “love you neighbor”. They miss the important “as yourself”. Thanks for sharing your journey here.


Thanks for sharing your insights Patricia. You make a really important point in highlighting the “as yourself” part of that verse, which is so often overlooked. It’s been really eye-opening for me to see that my reactions towards others usually stem from my reactions towards myself. And your comment about the “imitation of the real thing”- yup, I can identify with that myself. Living that way amounts to a lot of WORK. Thanks for sharing your journey with us too!


Carla even though this is older, I’m so grateful for your sharing. A little over two months in on realizing these truths, I just don’t have the words and am so grateful that you do!


Hi Fai! Thank you for your feedback and warm response! Thinking about this again, guilt was something that had pervaded my life to such a degree that I almost wasn’t aware it was at work most of the time. It was such a default mode in decision making and just living in general and resulted in me holding myself to such high, impossible standards that failure was sometimes so traumatic. Now, I am more aware of when guilt is playing a role in a situation and I can give myself the freedom to not listen to it. I’m so glad you are reading and so glad you found something valuable in it for you. All the best to you Fai. ~Carla

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