How to Manage the Guilt that Comes After Behaving Badly

“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” – Mae West

Men, women, and children experience it during their lives. It is a feeling of “Oops! I should not have done that!” Sporadically, accompanied by a fraction of regret, or devilish delicious pleasure for a select few. Interestingly, we usually know when our behavior is wrong or risky. Don’t we?

When was the last time you did something, knowing deep down it was not appropriate but you crossed the line anyway?

Human beings are complex. A certain level of unpredictability can be expected from us, especially, when the desire for something presents itself. How far, we’ll go to obtain what is yearned varies. There are people that push the envelope to new heights behaving badly without remorse. While others are inherently good sticking to a general set of standards and ethics.

It can be a fine line between good and bad. Life is not always black and white. People often find themselves in situations that create uncertainty.  Things seem to align, maybe justifying you committing the offense. The bad behavior may be rationalized to get a message across, teach a lesson or satisfy personal agendas. Whatever the reasons are for misbehaving and how far you are willing to go often depends on the morals and values you are given in childhood.

There are fundamental guidelines most people follow. Does everyone do the right thing every time? I’m not so sure. There is a gray area that tends to complicate life. Sorting out dirty laundry is a major task, add to it the human factor. It’s a tangled web, we weave at times.

The best of people can find themselves in situations that test their will, occasionally, questioning what they stand for. The behavior or action becomes a struggle with the conscience challenging many to ponder if the reward is worth the risk. It isn’t easy to always do the right thing, is it? Different motivators lead some good folks to do naughty things. The awaited compensation or satisfaction to be awarded at the end of the crooked road will last a moment or longer. Ultimately, you will have to face your biggest critic. Consequence has a funny way of chasing you down. Accountability creeps in, no matter how much it’s ignored. Until we make peace within, there is no way to forgive, particularly our own indiscretions.

Let’s also remember that guilt is not a universal feeling. There are plenty of men and women experiencing no remorse. Excusing their bad behavior is achieved without much effort, though most of us know and sense when our conduct has strayed. This internal alarm acts as a deterrent to help choose wisely. However, if you are someone living in a world of extreme self-entitlement or lack of empathy outside the normal boundaries it should be cause for concern. Time to check yourself.

It becomes increasingly important to me as an adult to remind myself that I am not flawless. Carrying myself in an honest and trustworthy way is a priority but perfection is not the expectation. Mistakes are made along the way and not due to intentional bad behavior. It is essential to keepthese points present when confronting personal misbehavior.

1. No one is perfect. Anyone can have a slip or several on life’s record. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are an evildoer. The path to redemption is available to those truly seeking a better self.

2. Good people sometimes do bad things, too. Do not be fooled into thinking you are required to be free of all wrongdoing. If you stayed out with girlfriends bit later than expected on a weeknight to wake up late for your daily routine or said no to a friend’s favor. It is not a reason to beat yourself up. Own up to how you are feeling about the matter then turn the page.

3. Boundaries. The question to ask yourself when there is a temptation for dubious behavior? Are the lines being crossed sacrificing your integrity? If the behavior is considered suspect. Is it worth having to possibly confine yourself to a place that can make you feel less than honorable? At the end of the day, what you think of yourself is what really matters most.

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” C.S. Lew

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Photo provided by The ABView Photography.

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