Taking Away Forgiveness Can Cause Guilt To Turn Destructive

This week, radio presenter Danny Baker has been fired by the BBC for tweeting a picture in response to the news of the Royal baby that has been considered by many as racist. (The BBC article is here). Given that this is the first multi-racial child born within the Royal Family, it was clear that such a picture (of a chimpanzee dressed up as a child) was found to be offensive and so the action was taken. In the interests of keeping this post on topic, I’m not going to discuss whether it was right or wrong (for what its worth, I think it was wrong) but instead I want to focus attention on how he handled the situation and what it tells us about guilt. This is important because it shows how it can make a difficult situation far more inflamed than it needs to be and can stop us making any real progress.

So, the perspective from Danny yesterday was tweeted as this:

Here we go. Opened door, grinning Mail hack. “Do you think black people look like monkeys?” Any other time you’d knock someone right on their arse for saying that. No mate. Gag pic. Posh baby chimp. Alerted to circs. Appalled. Deleted. Apologised. (via Twitter)

Now Sky at the door. Would have used same stupid pic for any other Royal birth or Boris Johnson kid or even one of my own. It’s a funny image. (Though not of course in that context.) Enormous mistake, for sure. Grotesque. Anyway, here’s to ya Archie, Sorry mate.” (via Twitter)

What I see here is someone who realises they have messed up and because they feel guilty and embarrassed, they take the tone that we all try to take – that of “oh well, it’s a bit embarrassing but ultimately what can you do?” rather than allowing the enormity of what had happened hit. We all do this – we all try to make something big feel small so that it doesn’t affect our mental state. However, with such a big and public error of judgement, there was never going to be one journalist, or one conversation, but multiple, all trying to get him to say something in the heat of the moment to inflame the situation further.

The challenge with these situations is that in reality, no apology can ever truly make up for the act, and without the completion of the apology being accepted, he is left to feel guilty without a way of getting out of it. When we feel that something has lost an exit route, there are limited options. From Danny’s tweets today (copied below), it seems he has gone down the healthier route of trying to once again explain and apologise for the action, and may be willing to continue to do this as many times as it takes for it to be heard and accepted (although never truly forgotten). What can happen (and remains to be seen if Danny’s patience will hold out) is that without forgiveness, you go the other way and come to the conclusion that if the apology is never going to be accepted then you will stop saying sorry and – more harmfully – may even double down more on it not being wrong in the first place.

Public humiliation and anger has this habit of magnifying a situation that is already incredibly sensitive and holding it under such scrutiny that it leaves the person few choices to be able to do something about it. Even if the Royal couple accept the apology the rest of the public will continue to be enraged on their behalf. And as such, it can result in the perpetrator feeling more like the victim and less like the culprit. This isn’t healthy for them and it is not healthy for us as a society.

For those trying to defend his actions, they may be supporting someone who they feel (because they know him) is not the type of person to have done this with malicious intent. But interestingly there have been several I have seen that have gone down the route of “well, any one of us could have done this”, to which many have responded, “er no, we wouldn’t!” What I see here is guilt from others – they are looking at the situation and thinking that there is a risk that they may say something in the spur of the moment which will have the same reaction with no malice at all, but that would get the same type of anger targeted at them and so it unnerves them. If we know that sometimes we say things that are controversial or challenging, then there is a greater risk that something we say will offend – indeed, many commentators will tell us political correctness has ‘gone mad’ and you can’t say anything these days (which is not true). But it is an important aspect to bring to mind – sometimes we come to the defence of others not to benefit them but to benefit us in case we find ourselves in a similar position.

We want to know there is redemption. We want to know there is forgiveness – otherwise, how do we get past moments of misinterpretation or miscalculation? We all make mistakes and some will indeed be extremely difficult to back away from. But as a society we have to find a better way to continue this conversation so we don’t accidentally create a villain out of a misfortunate situation.

Danny Baker’s tweets today (10 May):

Taking My Own Advice

I have had a lot of internal self talk this week. It keeps telling me that I’m not pushing hard enough, that I’m dragging my heels, that I can’t ‘want it’ badly enough. I’ve tried using the techniques in my book – because if they don’t work for me, how can I possibly expect other people to trust them?!?! And even though this might sound total BS – it really did work. Briefly, here’s what I did:
– Looked at the list I had written for myself
– Got real with the things that were on there that was to impress other people, or because I saw other people do it (for example, I had written that I would write talks I wanted to present yet I have done nothing to publicise those talks, so why write it before it is needed?!?)
– After I took a bunch of things off, I went down the list asking myself why? Why did I want to do it, and why wasn’t I? This is the hard one, because you have to be brutally honest with yourself. 

As per the book, I talk about internal and external guilt – and the fact that you do not feel compelled to act if the pressure is coming from external, however ingrained it might feel. One of the Aha moments for me this week was distinguishing between the things I genuinely had placed no value in, and those things that I wasn’t doing because I was SCARED TO TRY. This is life changing because the second I admitted that some of these things made me feel really vulnerable, my core just fired up and I realised how badly I wanted to do them. I set a structure in my day to make sure they got done, and managed to actually break the back of some of them.

I want you to read the book because I know that it is already starting to help so many people. I want you to read it because the tips in there work – truly work. Putting yourself out into the world in this way has been far more exposing than I imagined, and I know that is also contributing to my sense of procrastination – everything feels so personal. But I also know that when one of you (or whoever has read the book) write to me to let me know the impact it is having on them – wow, I feel amazing.

So if you are procrastinating, then try some of these tips or – for the full effect – make sure you get a copy of the book :-).

Here’s the link , juuusssst in case! 

A thought for the weekend ..

Who you are is up to you and no-one else. If you feel that you are having to justify yourself to others, to explain why you think the way you do, and it feels that the explanation is met with judgement, you are giving too much power to the wrong person.

Know who you are and who you want to be and let that guide you, not the opinions and assumptions of others .

Be A Rebel – Live Life Your Way

Jameela Jamilhas been all over my social media feed recently with her stance on the judgements that are handed out to women and girls over how they conduct their lives. She has taken quite a firm stance on calling out those who profit from our insecurities and I fear that now she spends more of her time batting away her critics than getting on with spreading her message.
You may not feel called to become an activist, but that does not mean that you can’t play your part in fighting back over the assumptions, presumptions and judgements that may be making you doubt yourself and not see your true worth. The biggest way to ‘fight the system’ is by living your life as you would like, unapologetically. When you live guilt free, you become able to stand firm to criticism and opinion because you absolutely know the origins of your decisions and you know that YOU made them. That type of ownership over your life? That’s the revolution right there.

Recognising Guilt is Not The End of The Story But The Beginning

I speak to a lot of people about my work and there seems to be a fairly common misconception that working with me is about focusing on how guilty you feel. I get it – my topic is guilt, my book is about guilt and I use guilt in every sentence.

But my work is way more powerful than that. Yes, we talk about why you feel guilty. But – as quickly as possible – we dismiss that and you get to create a beautiful brand new guilt free page of your life. We talk about what life looks like without judgement, without focusing on other people’s needs first, without second guessing your decisions.

And it’s important to recognise that this is true about any work done on self improvement or self healing. We all approach it from different angles and lenses for sure, but the focus is always on trying to get you past the thing that is holding you back, and onto looking at like free of it.

I had a message recently from someone who said that they couldn’t imagine life without the constant guilt and regret of past mistakes – and that just breaks my heart. Those feelings are just that – feelings, emotions – that are there to remind us that what we are doing is either working or not. There will always be times when you feel guilt over things that have happened in the past – but you can’t change the past actions, only your actions in the future. You may have an experience that was so painful, and so impactful that you can’t see that pain ever going – but it can. It takes effort to use that pain not to punish yourself but to drive you towards a better version of yourself. In doing so, you honour the pain you caused others by vowing never to do that again.

None of that growth and personal development can happen unless you are prepared to go to the guilt first. But it isn’t scary to face, I promise. It is the key to your life changing for the better forever.

I wasn’t seeking excellence as a perfectionist. I was seeking it because I was imperfect.

If you have read my book Journey Through The Guilt Trip, you know that in my 20s, I had a nervous breakdown, trying to meet expectations that I thought would make others accept me and like me more. I strove to be the best I could, and always said that I was competing against myself all of the time and to some degree, I guess I was. Although, when I now look back, I realise that the competition with myself was driven from hiding the fact that I knew that I could never be truly perfect.

And herein lies the problem. People who are driven to succeed may look like they are set upon perfection, but in reality, they are more likely to be incredibly sensitive to the fact that they are anything but – their effort is more to keep that hidden from the world than anything else. And this is important. We tend to hold up ‘successful’ people as those role models for the rest of us – work hard, strive to be more, to be better, just like them. But if we don’t understand what has been driving them, we may be striving in the wrong direction. If they have been driven by a quest to hide their imperfections, thinking that if they show them that society will judge them and find them lacking, then we are in a tricky situation. Can you honestly say that you show compassion for your idols who seem to fall from grace? It takes a big person to see the humanness of their idols and not feel somehow cheated.

But to feel like this is to miss the point. Let’s celebrate these people not because they are perfect, but because they have succeeded even when they were NOT perfect. Don’t judge role models by what you want them to be but by what they are. It is healthier for you and them, as we stop holding people to impossible standards and get disappointed when they cannot be met.

To read Journey Through The Guilt Trip, go to Amazon or click here

How Do You Deal With Advice And Feeling Guilty For Not Following It?

How do you use advice given by others, without triggering guilt?
That might sound easy – if you are asking for people’s advice on a problem you are having, it doesn’t seem logical to think that this will create any guilt – surely the two are mutually exclusive?

Not necessarily. When you ask for the opinion or advice of others, the relationship you have with them may start bringing in all sorts of expectations and assumptions about what you are going to do with that advice, and therefore may start triggering guilt trips.

Say that, for example, you have an issue with your partner, and you talk to your best friend, who has known you considerably longer than said other half. Depending on how you have phrased it (if you are having a general rant, chances are, you haven’t been kind about the perspective of your partner) their advice may range from sort it out to kick them out. Once you have had the empathy and compassion, and the time to rant and rage about everything, you calm down and realise that you were maybe a bit excessive with how bad the situation really was. Now you are in a conundrum – you feel guilty about painting your partner a certain way, knowing that it may not be strictly accurate. But you can also feel guilty that you have got some very wise advice from your friend who has always had your back and who may actually be around for longer than your partner. You want to keep both happy, but this can feel impossible – if you make up with your partner, it looks like you are ignoring the advice of your friend; and if you side with your friend, you may lose a partner who really didn’t do that much wrong. You can’t keep both happy – so what do you do?

The simple yet complex answer is to make it clear that your request for advice is based on your need to use it or not, depending on what you think the right thing to do is. What do I mean? Well, getting advice or wisdom from other people can sometimes help you process your situation and give you hidden insight, so there is a lot value in asking for it. however, many of us don’t set boundaries around that advice, by making it clear that, while you welcome their opinion, you are going to ultimately make up your own mind. This is really key to living guilt free, because you don’t want to get into that crazy situation where you feel obliged to act against your own values and judgement, just because you have solicited advice from someone who then expects you to listen to it.

By also focusing some time on understanding how you want to interact with those people – what do you want your role of daughter / son or friend to look like – you can more control over the obligations set up when advice is sought or given. Knowing that you appreciate their opinion but that ultimately, you are going to make the decision for yourself, can lead to deeper connections with people as well as a clearer mind when the decision has to be made.