July 13th, 2009


compassion vs. guilt

I've been on a compassion kick lately. (Like with many other things in my life, I have Dr. Dan Gottlieb to thank.)

I realized this mainly on Friday night, during a discussion on an article about poverty, and what we (as middle-class Americans, I assume) were obligated to do to alleviate the global poverty problem; how much we were required to sacrifice. It was really starting to bother me that everyone who spoke began their point with, "Of course I should be donating more, but...". I raised my hand and said, "I need to do more, and my country needs to do more, but I'm not willing to sit here and tell all of you that you need to do more. I'm not willing to let the original sin of being an American be that you will go to the grave guilt-ridden, thinking that you always should have done more. We each have our limits, and when you reach them, that's OK."

Later in the discussion, someone was making the point about how "need" is not an absolute term, and talked about when she was 12 years old and needed $100 designer jeans. Even though we were getting way off-topic, I felt the need to chime in to acknowledge her need and to give her 12-year-old self my permission to need those pants. Of course that need seems silly, but who am I, who is anyone else, to deny that feeling of need?

If you feel it, it's legitimate. Period.

How not Jewish of me! And I think my Catholic stepfamily would be confused too! I come from a family background that is so stereotypically guilt-ridden. And yet I seem to be on a quest to rid the world of guilt.

Be who you are, do what you think you can accomplish, and then dammit, be proud of yourself. (I guess I have synecdochic to thank for this too, huh.) You are who you are, and if who you are is happy, or content, or proud; then celebrate that! And I'll be celebrating right next to you.