wings and things

Happiness guilt

on January 17, 2013

I have always had a bit of a problem with “happiness guilt”. As a child, I had a keen awareness that while I had a loving family, enough food, and a house to live in, other children in other places didn’t. So I developed a kind of resistance to happiness because it made me feel so guilty when I knew other people – particularly children – might be unhappy.

When I posted about Ming’s new ute, I didn’t mention the episode of happiness guilt he experienced for nearly an hour after Anthony and I shocked him with his birthday present.

I took Ants back into the lodge for lunch and wondered why Ming was taking so long to come in and join us. Finally I went outside to find Ming in a severe state of happiness guilt.

Ming: But I don’t deserve it – I can’t believe this!
Me: It was Dad’s idea and I made it happen.
Ming: But how? We don’t have any money! I’m so worried!
Me: Dad had some savings – Ming, please stop worrying, it’s okay. This is giving Ants so much joy – it’s sort of vicarious.
Ming: But it’s 4WD!
Me: Dad’s idea.
Ming: And turbo! And diesel! With a steel tray! And it’s automatic!
Me: Dad wanted to get you the best.
Ming: No, I don’t deserve it!
Me: You do! Now get over it and come in and say all this to Ants!

In the end I had to get a couple of nurses to go out and convince Ming to be happy and not guilty! He finally came in, hugged and thanked Ants and things lightened up but it was only when Ming (still on L-plates) was driving us home that the happiness finally got the better of the guilt.


53 responses to “Happiness guilt

  1. bulldogsturf says:

    Don’t we all feel this way when we have lived the life we have… shame Ming has seen the suffering and trauma you and Ant are going through and I feel for him that he can’t believe it… it just goes to show you have a wonderful son that thinks of his parents first and his love for them makes it difficult for him to receive such a gift when he thinks you need things more than him…
    I have a lot of respect for that son of yours now… a perfect reaction to such a gift…
    I know you and him bump heads now and then… but boy he does love you and Ant more than you realise… A good Boy you have there…..

  2. Helen says:

    I think it’s so nice that Ming appreciates this gift so much and hasn’t taken it for granted. I’m happy for him and also for you and Anthony that you have been able to do this for him. We will have to have that catch up soon 🙂 Helen xx

  3. Louise G. says:

    Happiness should always trump guilt. And I think Ming displayed wonderful heart in his reaction. Maybe it’s not so much guilt on his part as his awareness and appreciation of the sacrifices you and Ants make on his behalf. What a wonderful young man!

  4. FacetsofLucy says:

    I just saw a television show about how the youth of today have TOO high opinions of themselves and feel very entitled. Ming demonstrated that he isn’t one of those by his appreciation and his acknowledgement of the family situation. My daughter demonstrated similar appreciation and concern over the Christmas holidays and I was similarly touched. You and Anthony have raised Ming to have good values. Hopefully, now, he’ll relax and enjoy that beautiful truck!

    • jmgoyder says:

      Your daughter is so special! I know what you mean here but Ming went out hours ago and still isn’t home and I got so worried until I rang and he’s on his way home. Argh! I will have to try very hard NOT to be mad at him!

  5. TBM says:

    I know how he feels. It’s hard to accept such a large gift, but it also makes the giver feel good to be able to.

  6. Man, I think I get happiness guilt too!

  7. mimijk says:

    I’m thrilled that his delight trumped his guilt..I think there’s a difference between humility and guilt. With so much going on in your and Ming’s lives, a moment of disbelief at such good fortune is understandable. And the assurances and reinforcement that you and the nurses provided him, I think did give him the ‘permission’ he needed to just feel joy. What a wonderful moment for all of you..hugs, m

  8. Gardengirl says:

    Great story! We all feel that happiness guilt sometimes. It means that we truly appreciate what we have. Ming is a great kid and it sounds like he truly deserved and appreciated his new vehicle.

  9. mrs fringe says:

    I think many of us can relate to happiness guilt. I think it goes along with waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Reading this, my overriding thought is what a fine person Ming is. He knows where your lives are, he cares enough to hate it, he cares enough to love both of you and think of what the repercussions of such a gift might be. Beautiful.

  10. I understand somewhat ….because when I went through depression for so many years and my children and husband had to ‘endure’ my actions, I had a hard time when birthdays came around and a fuss was made. And when I turned 65 I dreaded the thought of a big celebration party like my husband was given. As it turned out I let him know that I didn’t want one for other reasons but ..I felt I didn’t deserve good things maybe being said about me because at the times I didn’t feel like a good wife or mother….

    I should say that now being free of it, I can see where I did raise my children to be wonderful adults..held down jobs ..and other good things but at the time couldn’t see much positive about myself..

    Maybe because…and this is only an impression that I have…not necessarily so…but maybe because Ming has had a difficult time at least recently handling his father’s illness…he feels he doesn’t deserve it…Just a thought …Diane

  11. I would say that during our time when you and I were little, we needn’t have been burdened by happiness guilt because we had things but it was reasonable. Today is a different story, Ming is a refreshing example of what the youth should be feeling more of because the starving children in Africa haven’t gone away and the youth are feeling entitled to just more stuff. It’s epidemic and insidious in how it it infected society at large. You and Anthony have a wonderful son!

  12. Trisha says:

    Happiness guilt is such a complicated emotion! I’m glad he was finally able to overcome it so you could all just celebrate.

  13. viveka says:

    A wonderful expression – happy guilt!! Wonderful … I bet Ming can’t really grip what has happen here. He are worried … of course for his dad and what everything cost. He must be on high ..

  14. Monica says:

    Hi Julie, This is a nice reminder to enjoy our blessings in all forms.

  15. Colline says:

    So often our children learn from us – and then we learn from them. He has learned this reaction from you – and now he is teaching you that it is okay to be happy, to accept it with open arms. I wish him continued happiness with his new car 🙂

  16. terry1954 says:

    I think all of us get this at one time or other, I know I have when I receive something

  17. robincoyle says:

    What a sweet and thoughtful boy you’ve raised.

  18. Robyn Lee says:

    Julie this just speaks so highly of the fine unselfish character of your great son. Now…you just keep reminding him just how much he DOES deserve this gift.. And to give you and his dad the gift of his joy with it!!! ❤❤❤…. Just my 2 cents😉xxxR

  19. Victoria says:

    I think Happiness Guilt is a good temporary reaction, but one that should move on to ordinary happiness.
    Ming sounds such a mature young man. You should be very proud of him.

  20. happiness guilt is better than other guilt—but you know, we really do deserve to be happy

  21. aFrankAngle says:

    Happiness guilt is a good thing because embracing it keeps one grounded.

  22. FlaHam says:

    Julie, these continuing stories of you you, Ming and Ants make me happy and it’s totally without guilt. But I understand it, and I am sure I have displayed a few times over the years. Thank you for sharing such a warm event. Take care, Bill

  23. What a complicated mix he is. He will always be interesting.

  24. janechese says:

    We are always taught not to be selfish and to work hard and that it is better to give than receive. Thus the guilt when we receive a gift. it is hard to receive but the best way to thank someone is to enjoy the gift and use it. Then you are giving them the pleasure back. It is all good. Can’t wait to hear about Anthony and Ming going for a drive-and see a photo.

  25. dcwisdom says:

    One thing about happiness guilt – it keeps us humble. Some things are hard to accept, especially when we know it comes from sacrifice. I bet he’ll get over it, though, as he enjoys the Ute and probably the female attention from having such a cool vehicle. He’ll be ok. 🙂

  26. The only people who do not feel happiness guilt are those who are so self centred it isn’t funny, I have felt it at times my mother has felt it often and my girls all feel it and I think even hubby feels it from time to time, it is normal

  27. Lynda says:

    I told Bob about this and he said that your son is a rare young man. Julie, in spite of your anxiety about his guilt, it must have made you proud of him to hear that he cared so much… many others wouldn’t have given it the least thought.

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