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What are the BEST examples of guilt trips you’ve ever seen?

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Hi from your Surrogate Asian Father.

As you know, if there’s one thing I understand, it’s guilt. See, I was raised by the best. (And if you’re Asian, Indian, Jewish, or basically if you have any ethnic parents or relatives, you know what I mean.)

Even if you don’t, we ALL know what guilt feels like. Sometimes it’s this nebulous feeling of things we “should” be doing…exacerbated by our parents or relatives. On the other hand, sometimes WE’RE the ones making ourselves feel guilty more than anyone else!

On tomorrow’s live webcast, I’ll be covering guilt — including some strategies to conquer it.

But I want to know the BEST guilt trip you’ve ever encountered. Was it…

  • Your parents saying, “Don’t you ever put me in an old folks’ home”?
  • Your uncle saying, “Look at Jon — he has the best grades in his whole school”
  • You realizing you hate your major in college, but feeling guilty about letting someone down if you switched?

Those are simple examples. I know with a group of weirdos like you, you have even crazier ones. Leave a comment with your best examples of guilt trips and I’ll feature the best tomorrow.

And if you haven’t locked in a spot for my presentation on guilt, you can sign up in less than 10 seconds, free.  

This is a one-time only presentation and it will not be recorded.

Enjoy the comments and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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  1. So my mother *HATES* driving in big cities. I have no clue where this fear comes from, but she basically refuses to do it. My Dad had hip surgery two years ago in Houston (where I live) and has to stay over night for a couple of nights.

    My mom has the car and my apartment is about 3-4 miles away. I tell her to go straight out of the parking lot and take a right. Stay on that road until she sees the MASSIVE fountain, take a left and go straight until you see my apartment. Basically, two very straight roads and one turn.

    I’m giving her directions because I’m at a concert with friends about a mile and a half from my apartment at a local bar. She refuses to drive and asks me to come get here. I explain the situation. It’s a random Wednesday so there are no cabs around and rode with a friend.

    “I understand. It’s not like I ever drove you to baseball practice, cooked you hot meals every night, helped pay for your private school tuition,” she said.

    That’s probably the most guilty I’ve ever felt. She’s was right, but dayum…. Mom.

    I WALKED the mile and a half in Cowboy boots to my apartment, got in my truck and went to get her. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever forget that.

    • Pure gold! You are a good son, btw.

    • This is absurd. Love is not a ‘you owe me now’. I disagree with ramit. At a certain point you become an enabler to an abusive relationship when you don’t allow that person, in this case your mother, to learn to help themselves and grow. Doesn’t mean you have to be rude, just means you need to set some serious boundaries.

    • I guess I fundamentally disagree with you, Jess.

      Was my mother’s guilt trip a little over the top? Yes. In this instance am I enabling a behavior that (to me) seems ridiculous? Probably.

      However we all have fears and hangups that might be ridiculous to other people and she was right. She wasn’t “cashing in” at my expense, but merely reminding me of all the things she’s done for me throughout the course of my life. That list is never-ending, by the way. Her spouse and kids have always come first.

      The second half of a concert won’t ever take precedence over the person who has *always* been there for me any more than I would prioritize some work project over my wife.

      Besides, I decide how something makes me feel. My reaction, in this instance, was to feel guilt, but I’m the one who gets to choose my personal reaction and how someone makes me feel.

    • Breezy Kimerly Link to this comment

      I like you Ryan. You sound very sane in the best way.

    • Ryan,

      I am not sure how this will help. I am a mother. I am also very afraid to drive in big cities. Mainly is because I care about the car (I would hate to see I am causing financial problems). I may try it if I do not have other choices (there is always taxi service). I wanted to give you an idea that your mom is not the only mother with such fear, and it should not make us bad people. I do not do it to abuse anybody. I am just not confident in my abilities of driving good enough, not to cause problems (car, other innocent people etc). So maybe we are just responsible people, knowing our limits. I think this is my case. I am sorry I am missing out on being a confident driver, because having the independence of going places is just amazing. Free to do anything you want, when you want (my husband once forgot to pick me up from work, so I waited an hour before I asked if he is coming; lucky me I called because he was too focused on his job and he forgot). You can not expect anyone to understand us if you never walked a mile in our shoes. I believe whoever is using guilt to make someone else do stuff are not very intelligent. Now is just a matter of having enough compassion to put up with this behavior, enable them. I do not have the patience. I would call it as it is. I would not put myself through such undignified experience, using guilt to make someone do things for me. Narcissist parents do that very often… My sister would use guilt when she needs my money, just because, not for a very good reason… She would say my beloved mother, would see me and she would not approve, from heaven above. It makes me so sad, to see how one tries to manipulate someone else like this.

    • It’s your family. Of course you will defend the scenario. But, she wasn’t just ‘merely reminding you’ like you were out at lunch and having a conversation about the past, your childhood, and your upbringing over tea. She wasn’t getting what she wanted, you proceeded to explain politely that you were out and even tried other alternatives, she still didn’t like that you were busy/not coming right away/what have you, and decided to emotionally manipulate you to get what she wanted. And she did. You didn’t get to choose that feeling.

      Whether you want to overlook that or down play it, it is what you describe. The fact that you emphasize that you will never forget feeling that way means a lot more to you emotionally than it seems you are willing to investigate.

      I hope you do think about your relationship a bit more and perhaps talk to her about it.

    • Jess, stop being a concern troll. Ryan clearly understands it was a guilt trip. That doesn’t mean his mom is “abusive.” You and I have no idea what kind of boundaries or relationship he has with his mom. I think you’ve made your point. Let’s leave it at that.

    • Ramit,

      The scenario laid out was a textbook example of emotional abuse, as are many many more of the comments to this post.

      I stand by what I wrote and I do hope my perspective helps.

    • Ryan, you are so lucky! I wish I could give a ride to my mom.
      Your only mistake was the cowboy boots. I mean really, what were you thinking.

    • When a parent says, remember I changed your diaper, is it OK to respond with, and if you hadnt, you would have been found guilty of child neglect?

  2. From mom:
    Go home before 7pm or else I will die from heart attack. Do you want that?

    • That is bad! I wanted an opinion. My daughter says I am manipulating her. My dad and my husbands father recently died of alzthimers disease. While she was wrapping her bf presents, casually I asked her if she wanted to to a walk in Sept. ? She instantly loudly and snotily said, “no!” I asked why its not until sept. 19th? She told me get over it. It didn’t help my husband said, well my feet will hurt, so I don’t think I will do it. He just said, he would do it! Geez. So I told them I was disappointed and i would get some friends. She was so mad at me, told me I was really mad at her so I was trying to guilt trip her. That dad forgot ,so its not his fault. She brought up old stuff and called me names. She is gonna be 23 in Dec. I don’t want anyone to go with me or might not do it now. i won’t even talk to them about it, I don’t get it? Her only comment was I shouldn’t of asked her while she was wrapping her bf presents.

  3. Once upon a time in the summer, my brother and I were having dinner with my parents. As we finished our plates, my mom asked us what our plans were for the evening.

    “Oh, I’ll probably just go out with some friends,” I said.

    “Yeah, I’ll be hanging out with Rob and Sam,” my brother said. “What about you, Mom?”

    My mom said in this “woe-is-me” voice, “Guess I’ll be doing the dishes all by myself.”


    My mom’s the travel agent for guilt-trips. But by this point we all see through her and call her out on it.

    • LMAOOOO @ your brother’s response…

    • Maybe she wanted some help doing the dishes and as all moms do ,you really get tired asking for help. Would be nice after I am sure she cooked the meal, someone offered to clear the table or put them in the dishwasher. She certainly didn’t want to go out with you. Why are adult/kids so disrespectful? Mom actually might have had a busy day, was exhausted. She might of wanted to have help sonshe could speed up her plans? No reguard for her at all, not asking what her plans are and can we give you a hand! Wow!

  4. The worst guilt trip ever, is whenever my mom felt like it, she decided to tell me ” I was in the worst pain of my life for 13 hours, for you… And this is how you treat me?”

    When she used this:
    I talked back
    I wouldn’t clean the bathroom
    I didn’t want to do something
    I wanted to do something

    I have vowed to never ever ever say this to my kids

  5. I was (albeit foolishly) engaged to my college boyfriend. My mom opposed the relationship. She has a chronic illness that sometimes prevents her from being able to get out of bed, and it had flared up around the time I was engaged. She called me into her bedroom one day (stale air, curtains drawn, breathing machine running, uneaten plate of food next to her….) and told me that she had relapsed, that it was because she was so worried about me that she couldn’t sleep, and that her not sleeping had caused the relapse. She went on to say that she didn’t think she was going to pull through this time and she was sure she was going to die, and therefore my relationship was killing her.

    • Breezy Kimerly Link to this comment


    • Yeah, that was a tough day. I did end up breaking up with that guy, but not because it was going to kill my mom if I didn’t. Her illness is legitimate, but it’s definitely exacerbated by her mental health (or lack thereof).

    • Janis Melnychuk Link to this comment

      Sorry, that is rough, unfair and unforgettable

  6. I tried to put in my two weeks notice at work- about 4 years ago. My boss said to me ” Are you sure you want to leave us in a potion like this? We are already under staffed, our customers would be devastated, and your the best person we have for the job” I felt so guilty like I was jumping ship. So even though I was miserable I stayed. Then it became my security blanket so I couldn’t leave. I can’t believe it took me so long to break the chains and leave. I’ve been out of there since Novemeber and feeling so much happier!

    • That’s interesting… something very similar happened to me. I actually gave a month’s notice but the boss said pretty much the same thing – and that came from the person who had a history of yelling at me, and from the company that never once gave me a payrise while I was in that position…
      I didn’t stay. It made me firmer about quitting.

      I’m usually very bad at judging people and have been guilt-tripped (successfully) many times, so it actually makes me quite grateful when somebody is being such an hypocrite (and a jerk) in such an obvious way 🙂

  7. Breezy Kimerly Link to this comment

    The worst guilt trip ever pulled on me was when my mother didn’t want to take me to school in the mornings so she’d convince me to play hookie by saying, “You’d rather go to school and hang out with your friends (which she knew I had exactly 0) than hang out with your lonely Momma today?” It would continue with such things as “No, no, it’s ok, I can take care of myself today.” and “Don’t worry about me.” She laid it on THICK!

    Good thing school was easy for me because on my surprisingly high scoring report cards I often had 20-30 days of absences!

    I impress myself.

    • Seriously? Your mom purposely had you missing school? Are you ok? I mean that sort of opens the door for much more concerning behaviors.

  8. My ex fiancée’s mom used to passive aggressively guilt trip me about my weight, the wedding, her son, basically anything she could think of. Then my ex fiancée start to join in by saying things like “You owe me, I bought you an engagement ring.”

  9. When I was in my freshman year of high school, I failed a semester of Biology. Not the whole year – I squeaked by for the year, but on my midterm report card I was failing by a few points.

    When my mom got the report card, I was at school. She drove to the school in the afternoon and as soon as the bell rang, found me and made me wait in the lobby while she talked to my biology teacher. Then she packed me into the car and spent a very tense ride asking me what had happened. When I didn’t have a satisfactory answer, she drove us to my favorite ICE CREAM SHOP, got us both big sundaes, sat us down with our ice cream at the table right in front of the huge window at the front of the shop, and proceeded to tell me how lucky, smart and privileged I was and how I was a lazy and ungrateful kid who was squandering every advantage, and my parents had done so much for me and worked so hard to be where they were, and had given me so much, etc., etc.

    By the end of it, I was sobbing over my ice cream, in public and in full view of everyone passing by in the street. It hasn’t stopped, either, not through all of high school, college, or now when I’m doing accountancy classes in the evenings. When I get good grades, she “congratulates” me by reminding me of the bad ones I’ve gotten.

    • If you don’t lay down the law and put an end to that, it only gets worse. Been there, done that, just “ruined the family” at age 30 because they’d started in on the next generation, my kid, and I all-but-severed ties. I don’t recommend waiting as long as I did.

      You asked for my opinion, right? 🙂

    • Yeah, my mom has had me in tears millions of times. I’m 41 now. She is a bitter, angry lady who gets a good hit of power from taking me down a notch when she can. I figured out in the past ten years that the longer I’m away from her, the happier I am. And I can finally do that. I stay away, I don’t call back, I don’t listen to her. She is beginning to regret all the times she’s shamed me, which is …nice.

    • Yeah – I’m trying to put an end to it. She doesn’t make it easy…

  10. I rarely feel guilty because I put a lot of thought into the pros and cons of my actions. So, the worst guilt trip for me was not something someone else did, but what I did to myself.

    I was living and teaching in China. On my way into work one day, I saw a man without legs laying on the ground begging for money. My translator told me not to give him anything even though it was obvious I wanted to give him a few coins. He informed me that the government takes care of injured people by paying for their apartments and utilities, giving them food and clothing. They give them enough that these injured people live more comfortably than farmers and industry workers in China.

    Later that week I saw someone that talking to themselves and eating near rotten food out of the trash. I followed my translator’s advice and didn’t give them my brand new bottle of water, but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel pity. I found out later that these were a whole new class of people in China called “second sons”, which are the second child of a couple. They are illegal, and thus not considered people in China. They don’t exist on paper, therefore they can get no aid, no job, and do nothing. They subsist solely on the scraps of society and they are scorned by most.

    I felt guilty because I did not know the difference and I could have aided a stranger that really needed it.

    Happily, I did not make this mistake again. I learnt to identify these outcasts and give them empty bottles and which they can cash in for money to buy wanted and needed. After all, I was a foreigner, so clearly I didn’t know what I was doing was against their societal norms. I was forgiven for helping these outcasts. And I don’t regret showing kindness at all.

    • Wow, Grace, your name suits you. That is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing! I had no idea about the “second son” phenomenon in China.

    • You’re welcome, Diana!

      In China these kids get to be adults because they are hid from the system by family and friends in the villages. When the government official comes by to tally the numbers, the second sons are “just visiting relatives”.

      What’s shocking is that when they get caught, the kids are taken to a sort of concentration camp where they are imprisoned and worked to death. I asked what happened there, but my translator wouldn’t answer. He said it was a sad, shameful story. =/