Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.
INFJ personality types* often live with ridiculous amounts of guilt. We feel guilty about things we did and didn’t say or do. We feel guilty about how the people around us feel and how they react to us, about our own short comings, and even about our successes.
Everyone experiences a certain amount of guilt. But it does seem like one of the more common struggles for INFJs. Most people attribute this propensity for guilt to INFJ perfectionism, saying that if we fail to make something “perfect” we’ll feel guilty about it. But it’s a bit more complex than that (a fact which, I’m sure, will surprise no one familiar with INFJs).
Why do INFJs feel guilty?
The INFJ mind is very good at coming up with reasons we should feel guilty. Our Introverted Intuition seeks out patterns in our own behavior. Our Extroverted Feeling picks up on how we make others feel and evaluates our actions in light of how people “should” be. Our Introverted Thinking is quite happy to analyze our faults to death. And that pesky Extroverted Sensing adds even more guilt by whispering that all this shouldn’t matter and we could just go have fun. Read more →
There are five stages of grief—denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Maybe you are familiar with these stages. If you have suffered any sort of traumatic life event or loss, you know these stages do not necessarily appear in this order. I would add one more stage to this whole process of grief—guilt. While in every big or small scenario of grief, guilt is not necessarily present, I would argue that when it comes to the loss of a loved one, there is always some manifestation of guilt. There is always something you regret, no matter how wonderful your relationship with your loved one might have been. This was my experience and for a long time I was unsure of what to do with my regret, how to respond to it and how to carry it.
When my brother died, one of the first things my father said was, “We have no regrets.” He was right. By all objective standards, my family had no regrets in the life and death of my younger brother. My brother was an exceptional seventeen-year-old. He had a good relationship with his parents and siblings. I would contend that “good” does not do justice to the friendship my brother and father shared. The name Benjamin means “son of my right hand” and Ben fulfilled his name in every respect – he was my father’s right hand man. My brother was full of joy and ambition. He possessed one of the greatest servant-hearted spirits and work-ethics of anyone I have ever known. He was the person you could count on in a crisis. If you needed his help, he would show up and follow through and I know so many of his friends and family can testify to the number of times he dropped everything to help someone in need.
More importantly, my brother loved Jesus and he loved the church. We had the privilege and joy of hearing his personal profession of faith and witnessing the evidence of his faith and the fruit of the Spirit in his character and his works. I still envy the grace and lightheartedness with which my brother moved through life. It’s something I continually aspire to.
Ultimately, we had no regrets. My brother’s life was secured in Christ and because of that there was only glory in the blink of an eye for him the night he died. Certainly we had nothing to regret.
Nevertheless, regret is an inevitable symptom of loss in a fallen, sinful world. For me it was a multitude of little things that, when accumulated, resulted in a great weight of guilt. There were the angry, hurtful words I wish I had never said – the encouraging, supportive words I should have said more – the affection and love I wish I had demonstrated more openly, thoughtfully, and generously. There were all the things we said we would together do but never did – all the little ways I should have been a better sister and friend to him. Read more →