This therapist’s golden rule tells you what you should do with tough choices
The tough choices in life are never easy.
Okay. I just read that back. I sound like a moron.
(A truth-bomb dropping moron! Boom!)
This is a truth bomb. It’s an uncomfortable truth. It’s something that people don’t want to hear.
Because a lot of motivational posters are going to tell you to “follow your dreams” and “live your truth” and “be true to your soul” or whatever phrasing is flavour of the month.
And it’s always set up like there’s a choice between some small, unappealing reality, and the glorious future that is waiting for you as soon as you quit your job at the Quikie-Mart, and record your genre-defining pop album.
But it’s never that simple. Tough choices are just that – tough. Because on the other end of the bargain is something painful or uncomfortable or sad.
Sure, you quit your job at the Quikie-Mart to record your album. But that means your daughter doesn’t get the orthodontic treatment she needs to straighten her teeth out.
Everything has a price.
I once heard about a therapist whose golden rule was: “If you face the choice between feeling guilt and resentment, choose the guilt every time.”
There’s something really interesting in this.
Often, tough choices leave us feeling guilty. Someone wants us to stay in a toxic relationship. Someone wants us to give up our dreams to “do the right thing” and provide for the family. Sometimes we have to ‘come out’ and be the unique being we’re supposed to be, even though this freaks people out and causes a lot of pain.
When we recognise the discomfort we’re causing others, we feel guilty. And when we are doing things that makes us feel happy, then we feel selfish and guilty.
And so maybe we stay put. We don’t make the change we’re inspired to make.
But that causes resentment. We resent the people who want to keep us in our box. We resent the people who saddle us responsibility and burden us with shame. And we resent ourselves for letting it all happen.
Heads, you feel guilty. Tails, you feel resentment.
The therapist’s advice to choose guilt over resentment is really interesting.
And what I think they’re saying is that guilt is temporary. Guilt lives in other people – it lives in the relationship. And it’s painful for you because you are picking up on their pain.
But as life goes on, as everyone moves on, pain eases, and guilt subsides.
But resentment on the other hand, that’s yours. That lives in you. And you can carry that for the rest of your days, always wondering what the music industry would have made of your polka-infused pop anthems, if only you had had more support.
Resentment lives on, and soaks your soul in bitterness.
So given the choice, and it’s a tough choice, choose guilt every time.