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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-04-09 08:03
Subject: Guilt vs Empathy
Security: Public
Tags:culture, links, lj
shaolingrrl muses on the continuum between guilt and empathy. Interesting stuff.

A portion of my response in her comments section:

Guilt leads one to place the perceived needs and interests above one's own actual needs and interests. Empathy leads one to balance the perceived needs and interests of others with one's own.
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User: jess_ka
Date: 2007-04-09 15:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Nicely put, I think.
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juliabk: The Thinker
User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-09 15:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:The Thinker
Her post is interesting, but I have to completely disagree with it.;-) There's no real connection between guilt and empathy.

I see almost no value in guilt at all. Sustained guilt is selfish and personally destructive. *Conscience* is what keeps us in line within the bounds of our individual social context. Guilt is the stick we, and others, beat us with when we step over the line. It's a fear reaction rather than a reasoned one. While fear is a powerful motivator, it's a poor one in the long term (except for hiding from tigers or jumping out from in front of a speeding car :-). It drives us to constrain ourselves without growth. Hanging onto guilt just leads to depression and self-indulgent flagellation of ourselves and others. Now, the initial pangs of guilt can be what our conscience uses to get our attention, but the key there is to deal with it as soon as it hits. "Oh. I shouldn't have said that to M. I knew she had a thing about poodles, I need to apologize and make sure I don't do it again." Once that's been done, hanging onto the guilt serves no useful, healthy purpose. (Yes, I know, this is a superficial example.)

What leads to empathy is recognizing that *I* am *your* 'other'. I'm as much a stranger as the person sitting next to me on the bus. Sounds simple, but it's amazing how many people have difficulty with that concept. Guilt won't take you there.
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shaolingrrl: beaker
User: shaolingrrl
Date: 2007-04-09 20:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:beaker
Hi. You might notice that I've moderated my stance somewhat, to finding "guilt as information" to be useful, and not guilt in and of itself.

Anything taken to extremes is damaging.
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juliabk
User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-09 20:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Good to hear. I still disagree that guilt leads to empathy. I think it actually damages a person's ability to empathize.
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shaolingrrl
User: shaolingrrl
Date: 2007-04-09 20:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
BTW, sorry if it was poor form to follow you here--realized after the fact that if you'd wanted a response you probably would have posted there.

Thank you for your comment, though. I like people pushing me to think more about stuff.
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juliabk
User: juliabk
Date: 2007-04-09 20:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Glad to help. This is something I've dealt with a great deal over the years. I've seen far too many people crippled by guilt and seen far too many others using it as a battering ram. It's taken me decades to get to this point.

Guilt is reactive. Empathy is proactive. They're not even in the same neighborhood.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake: graffiti-robot_brick
User: jaylake
Date: 2007-04-09 16:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:graffiti-robot_brick
Better analysis. I may reframe this whole bit later myself. Thank you!
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2007-04-09 16:08 (UTC)
Subject: guilt
Interesting discussion. What I do know is that guilt will keep you in a bad relationship way longer than will love.

There are the things you do for love, and the things you do out of guilt because you don't love.

"You don't love me!" is the ultimate blackmail line. Leila
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robin catesby
User: deedop
Date: 2007-04-09 17:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Eh, I find guilt to be far more destructive than useful. Back when I was talking Buddhism classes, it became clear in my mind just how much all the coulda/shoulda guilt I had was baggage, dragging me down, all part of Samsara, or the cycle of suffering. True "in touch with one's Buddha Nature" empathy doesn't require guilt to function.

(Not that I've achieved any of this myself; I find I'm ruled by guilt far too often and I don't care for it one bit.)
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shaolingrrl
User: shaolingrrl
Date: 2007-04-09 20:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Buddhism also speaks of moderation. Guilt as information, as a reminder, can be useful.
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