How do I stop feeling guilty about the conflicting urges in my human nature?

Answer to Quora question: "How do I stop feeling guilty about the conflicting urges in my human nature?"

Thank you for the A2A Ning Ng.

My answer is offered in deliberate contrast to what some others have stated here who seem to subscribe to moral relativism.

If you're actions are guided by a hierarchical values system where one or two values reign supreme over all others, then all you will need to do is discern how best to fulfill those primary values with all other values, thoughts, actions and intentions. The only conflict you will experience would be a lack of clarity about this hierarchy - once you are clear, there will no longer be tension.

For example, if your primary guiding intention in all things is to enrich yourself, and to do so from an egoic/solipsistic perspective where only your own welfare and satisfaction matter, then you need not be altruistic and can abandon those feelings as subordinate to your primary objective in life. Generous or altruistic feelings may still occur, but it will be easier to dismiss them as unimportant to your dominant self-serving values, and easier to feel less guilt about them.

However, if your primary guiding intention in all things is to be kind, loving, compassionate and affectionate to all conscious beings, hoping that everything you do for yourself will actually benefit others because you care about them (as, for example, a mother avoids alcohol when she is breast feeding, or a brother strengthens his body because he wants to be able to help his physically disabled sister, etc.), then any impulses toward greed and manipulating others will naturally attenuate in subordination to your primary values. Again, you may still experience selfish, egoic urgers, but it will be much easier to laugh at them or otherwise shrug them away.

Of course, good intentions do not guarantee we will not make mistakes, or will not lack skillfulness or discernment in some new, unexpected situation. Therefore, first and foremost, mistakes and miscalculations are much more common when we are tired, depleted, stressed, depressed, confused and so, again, taking care of oneself to avoid these conditions is quite important, and is part of acting toward yourself in ways that ultimately benefits others. And, if we are truly invested in being compassionate, we must also practice the same patience, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding towards ourselves that we believe embodies loving kindness towards others - especially when we make mistakes!

So as you can see it is simple to resolve conflicting urges if we prioritize our values and aim to live our lives according to those values. This perspective and practice is an aspect of what I call "Functional Intelligence," and you might enjoy reading this linked essay on the topic.

I hope this was helpful.


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