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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Walker


I’ve run into interesting conversations with people where they claim they were horribly guilt-tripped from an acquaintance, but the funny thing is that after they explained the situation it was clear to me they weren’t getting guilt tripped at all, but rather called out on something they were actually guilty of doing and too overwhelmed in their lives to admit it. So it got me to thinking that no one knows the difference between being guilt tripped and being actually guilty; in turn relationships are actually damaged because people are in denial of actions they’ve done that have hurt someone, or a project, or whatever it may be.

I personally had a situation with a girlfriend where I was accused of guilt tripping her after a message I’d left. On the message I inquired how she was, wished her boyfriend a happy birthday, and then said I wasn’t sure why I hadn’t heard from them (they hadn’t returned a call from a previous message I had left a month earlier,) but I hoped they were okay. I wasn’t bitchy on the message, just wondering what happened. All of a sudden I’m a guilt tripper who is inconsiderate of their busy lives. I immediately apologized for something that was interpreted on her end, though I wasn’t quite sure what I said that computed into a guilt trip. And although she said she had never gotten the message I was referring to, she showed no concern that I didn’t know that end of it when I left the supposed guilt trip message. The fact of the matter was that they hadn’t returned my phone call in over a month, and what was I supposed to think? After all was said and done, her accusation hurt. It was as if she used the guilt trip term falsely to displace the facts, and reverse the heat of the matter onto the person that was genuinely concerned about what happened, making me question the friendship.

So what’s the difference between guilt and a guilt trip??! Guilt, per the American Heritage Dictionary: 1. The fact of being responsible for an offense. The word stems from the old English word, “gylt,” meaning crime. Very interesting that it says, “the fact,” and that the word itself, means crime. This means that one should only being feeling guilt if they truly DID do something wrong. As for the true guilt trip, often a frequent activity for some mothers and religious institutions (e.g., Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt,) it is a combination of one trying to impose a set of rules, obligations and fears upon you (sometimes their own personal needs,) that are put in such a way to make you think these fears/obligations are now your responsibility as well. This spawns a feeling of wrong doing, or crime, and thus guilt--a guilt that isn’t yours to bear. THAT is a guilt trip: a manipulative ploy; an imposed reality that doesn’t really exist.

Basically, if you’re irresponsible and/or negligent, and someone calls you on it, then that is guilt. If someone is pulling something out of their ass to make you feel lesser than, and push you into a position to do something for them, then they’re taking you on a trip. A word to the wise: guilt tripping should pretty much be impossible if you know where you stand in your personal responsibilities versus what your friends, work relations, or religious institutions want you to be responsible for. And as far as friendships are concerned, as hard as it is to admit to have done something wrong, the repercussions will last a lot longer then just apologizing and making amends the best you can.

Originally published in In the Scene Magazine

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