As soon as I hung up the phone I felt bad. I had been rude and wished I could apologize but I could not.

I usually do not answer the phone when the number is not one that I recognize but sometimes I am not sure. This number was familiar. I knew I had received calls from it before so I answered. I have learned that if there is a pause after I have said hello, then it is usually a robo-call and I hang up.

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Like everyone else I get my share of calls from telemarketers and folks taking surveys. The past few weeks there has been a massive number of calls related to the current political campaign. Now they use local numbers and call you by first name to disguise the purpose of the call. Also, I guess this helps to get by the “Do Not Call” list.

Anyway, when the phone rang this morning I answered and waited for the pause and the delayed request to speak to me. My response was not polite and I hung up. Immediately I realized this was a company with which I do business and the call was legitimate. I called back right away but the person who answered my call was not the one to whom I had spoken to rudely. Since it is a large company the person from the previous call could not be identified.

The person who called me was just doing her job and trying to be helpful to me. I spoke too quickly and rudely but it was not possible to offer her my apology. I was guilty of a harsh and inappropriate response to her call.

 Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck was right when she said, “Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.”

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Feeling guilty is not always healthy. I suspect that everyone has had someone “lay a guilt trip” on them making them feel bad unnecessarily. Ayn Rand offered words of wisdom when she said, “The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.” It is important to separate a “guilt trip” from appropriate feelings of regret for your actions.

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Guilt can paralyze you or cause you to make necessary changes. It can be a warning sign to help you realize the need to change your behavior. This is “healthy” or “appropriate” guilt and it serves us well to pay attention. The rational purpose of this guilt is simply to try and convince you to change your behavior. 

John M. Grohol, Psy.D, says, “Guilt’s purpose isn’t to make us feel bad just for the sake of it. The feeling of guilt is trying to get our attention so that we can learn something from the experience. If we learn from our behavior, we’ll be less likely to do it again in the future.”

Dr. Grohol continues, “Guilt is one of those emotions that we feel is telling us something important. Be aware that not every emotion, and certainly not every guilty feeling, is a rational one that has a purpose. Focus on the guilt that causes loved ones or friends harm. And remember to be skeptical the next time you feel guilty – is it trying to teach you something rational and helpful about your behavior, or is it just an emotional, irrational response to a situation? The answer to that question will be your first step to helping you better cope with guilt in the future.”

Jamie Jenkins