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Thank you to too much candy for helping me finally make this video. It's obviously something I've been thinking about for a long time. As someone who has a LOT of advantages, it is very clear to me that I have them. But I also think that everyone watching this, just by virtue of having access to high speed internet, also has a lot of advantages that might not be as obvious.

As I say in the video, if you spend time with people who have your same advantages, they don't seem like advantages. And then when someone comes along and tells you that your normal is actually inequality, that can feel like an Heath finding out that he's ripped up Snickers' wedding flowers. Heath, in that moment, felt attacked by the guilt was something Snickers was doing, not something Heath's own mind was doing to attempt to help him behave differently in the future.

At least, that's the really drawn out metaphor I've decided to go with, I guess!

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Good morning John.

I just had a few dozen little candy bars, John.  I got some things I need to work out, so if you could just sit there for four minutes while I do that, that would be great.

Let's begin with a story!

I used to live in a house that was in the backyard of another house, if that makes sense.  My landlord had recently moved out of the front house and was renting it out to a new tenant.

One day I was hanging out in the backyard, and the landlord was doing some yard work, and the new tenant - let's call him Heath, we'll call the landlord Snickers.

So Heath has just arrived home, and Snickers says, "Hey did you pull up the ... the flowers in the back garden?".  Heath is like, "No I didn't pull up any flowers ... I pulled up some weeds back there."

Snickers says, "Uh ... they were flowers". Heath disagrees, "... they were weeds!"  And then Snickers (I'm just sitting here watching, awkwardly) says "Those were the wild flowers that grew from the seeds that were thrown at my wife and I's wedding."  And then Heath says, "Aww man! Now you're just making me feel guilty."

I'm confused about guilt. I honestly am - not like the legal status, I get that - but the emotion. Like there are times in my life when I've felt bad because I've done something wrong, even if I didn't mean to do the wrong thing.  I did it, I felt bad about it, and hopefully that negative emotion will make me behave in better ways in the future.

Like Heath didn't know that he was destroying something important when he did that, but he can still feel guilty about it. Like if I accidentally knock an old lady over, I didn't meant to, I'm not like an old lady shover, but I still feel bad about it, right? And maybe because of that guilt, I will be more careful with my big ol' body in the future.

Like saying "I didn't do it on purpose" isn't the same as "You didn't do it," you did it and so maybe, in the future, you can act in ways in which that thing won't happen again.

So that's one thing, I get that kind of guilt.  But then there's another thing where I feel bad about something that I have that other people don't have. Like I got a book deal, and my book is doing well, and everybody's excited about it, and lots of other people have written great books that didn't get published. 

Or, the ultimate real life example - I never had student loans because my grandfather ran businesses and he was wealthy and I never had to worry about that.  And I've always felt guilty about that, because it's always been present in my life, I've been very aware of it, because while my family wasn't wealthy, we did have a safety net that none of my friends had when I was growing up.

So then I'm experiencing this negative emotion, and I didn't even do anything! It's not like I didn't do it on purpose, I didn't do it! That doesn't seem fair, right? To feel guilty about a thing that I didn't do. And so I've always thought there are three ways to deal with that, and I was wrong, but here they are.

One - Don't think about it. Which is easier to do if you only hang out with people who are more like you, because then it just doesn't come up. 

Two - Tell a story to yourself about yourself in which you deserve the wealth. Like you worked an unequal amount of hard and smart, and thus you have received an unequal amount of good things. 

Or three - Feel guilty! Because you don't deserve your advantages.

Psychologists think a small amount of guilt is good. It encourages people to behave in what they call "prosocial ways," like you think more about your community, you help people when they need help, you volunteer, you donate to charity, that kind of thing.

But guilt is still unpleasant! You end up asking yourself whether it makes sense to feel guilty about a thing you didn't do, like it's not my fault I was born with money in the bank.  The answer is, I think, yes - because no, you don't deserve the guilt, in the same way that you don't deserve the money, and I don't deserve ulcerative colitis, or a healthy child, or beautiful fall days, or really funny internet memes.

I don't deserve my guilt, and I don't deserve the advantages I've been given because deserving is the wrong frame. I have that stuff, and the question isn't "What did I do to deserve it?", it's "What do I do with it?"

Do I take my guilt and let it weigh me down and terrify me and prevent me from every feeling good?  Or do I take my guilt and let it encourage me to do good stuff with the advantages I've been given.

Wasting energy feeling ashamed of something you didn't do? No.  Recognizing the advantages you have and being motivated to use them to help people who weren't so lucky? Yeah.

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.