Do you tend to feel guilty? Congratulations!

As a former Catholic and devoted mom, I work to encourage my adult children to feel guilty at every turn. So I was delighted to see this item today at the Wall Street Journal, asserting that people who are guilt-prone are actually pretty awesome.

The researchers find that 30% to 40% of adults are highly guilt-prone, and these tend to be nice folks. Guilt-proneness correlates to all kinds of positive traits, including sincerity, fairness, modesty, agreeableness and conscientiousness. “Compared to individuals with low guilt-proneness scores,” the researchers write, “those with high scores are more likely to be sympathetic, take the perspective of others, consider the future consequences of their behavior, and value having moral traits. ”

The guilt prone are also more likely to be female and older. And they’re less likely to make unethical business decisions, lie for money, negotiate dishonestly, behave badly at work, or commit crime. Not surprisingly, the researchers suggest looking for guilt-proneness when choosing friends, lovers and employees.

How guilt-prone are you? Take the GASP test (Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale) to find out. (I will confess, I can't figure out how to analyze my results from this little quiz, and yes, I do feel guilty about that.)

Comments (5)

Being raised in a culture of guilt (just a matter of course in my very ethnically Slavic family - the same for others I suppose); later in life being told that I shouldn't feel so guilty all the time, has only compounded the guilt. I often end up feeling guilty for feeling guilty. This article somehow validates (not in a bad way) the guilt and illustrates the value that it may possess.

-John Shirley

There's a very big difference between the sort of guilt this article is talking about -- which is really a sense of social and moral responsibility -- and the sort of capital "G" Guilt that is typically associated with Catholic theology. The first is about the ability to emphathize with your fellow citizens and understand the consequences of your actions. The latter is a theological assertion that it's impossible to know the security of salvation and redemption in this life.

Confusing the two is at the core of a great deal of human anguish... Not to mention it's been the weapon of clergy throughout western history who sought to control their congregations rather than minister to them.

"How guilt-prone are you?"

To address this question seems self-serving. And that makes me feel...

JC Fisher

At times I've been RC and Jewish, so I have guilt down to a fine art. I even feel guilty when crossing international borders and going through airport security, in spite of the fact that I've never tried to smuggle anything in my life.

Sorry, forgot to sign.
Another thing to feel guilty about.

Bill Dilworth

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