Today, my wife and I made a total tabulation of what we spent on Christmas gifts this year, including our charitable donations, and the final number made us both raise our eyebrows. Immediately upon seeing the final total, I felt a deep pang of guilt inside me. Did I really need to spend four figures on Christmas this year? For me, the answer was a clear “no.”
What did that pang of guilt mean, though? I had felt it before, even when I was spending like mad, but I was usually able to suppress it, mostly because I felt like it was the right thing for me to do.
I’ve learned something different in recent months, though. The truth is that the pang of guilt is your innermost values telling you you’ve done something wrong. If you feel guilt because of your excessive spending, it’s because on some level you realize that it’s a mistake.
Feeling guilty when you make poor spending choices is just the first step, though; it’s only an indication that on some level you realize that it’s wrong. From here, you have two choices:
You can take a step back and choose to ignore the guilt by promising yourself to spend until you no longer feel guilty, or
you can take a step forward and analyze the guilt, figure out where you made the mistake, and remind yourself of that mistake whenever it comes up again.
It is a constant battle to overcome the consumerist mindset. Guilt can be a tool as long as we keep it in perspective: it’s simply a metric for indicating a mistake. Do we suppress the warning or do we listen to the metric, figure out the mistake, and see what we can do to fix it?
Although I feel guilty for spending what I did this year for Christmas, I now see that the guilt isn’t something to suppress and ignore. Instead, it’s something I can think about and learn from, and perhaps focus more on less expensive and more spiritually satisfying gifts next year.