Pushing Guilt

A coworker recently got back from the Susan G Komen Walk for Cancer.  For months leading up to this walk, there was a poster on her office door for it that read: “Everyone deserves a lifetime.”

I appreciate that there is a company so dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer–as well as the people who undertake the fundraising that comes with it–and I (thankfully) don’t know how it must feel to have lost (or almost lose) someone to that disease.  So let me say right off the bat that I have no objection to what this walk is trying to do, nor to my coworker putting in her time and energy to take part in it.

What I object to is the phrase that was used to get people excited about it:  “Everyone deserves a lifetime.”

Everyone already HAS a lifetime.  Regardless of whether it lasts two days, two years, or over a century; from the moment we’re born, we’re living our lifetime.  Whatever experiences we live during that allotted time, ALSO constitutes our lifetime.  They’re not always happy, nor are they always miserable, but whatever hand we’re each dealt . . . that’s our lifetime.

So a phrase like this seems like nothing more than a play on your guilt or sympathies. It’s like saying “You should feel bad because Jane Q Public died (or almost died) from breast cancer, but if you give us money, we’ll consider that penance for living a life she never got to live,” but shortened up to fit nicely on posters and T-shirts.

I’m all for making advances in science to help detect disease far enough in advance to be able to save as many lives as possible, and I’m sure that’s the true message the Walk for Cancer was trying to get across.  I just wish they’d use different slogans than those designed to play on people’s sympathies.

I think the reason I dislike the guilt-inducing marketing campaigns so much is because I’m quite susceptible to feeling guilty already . . . I don’t need someone else to try to make me feel that way.

I was a fairly easy kid to raise.  I didn’t get into trouble too often, and if I ever tried to lie to my mom, I would eventually come to her and fess up, crying through my confession because I felt so guilty for not being honest with her in the first place.  She actually told me that whenever she said “I’m really disappointed in you,” for something I’d done that she didn’t like, I would bawl my eyes out in my room.  It was worse than if she’d spanked me (which she didn’t have to do often, either).

So because I’m so sensitive to guilt, I really hate it when someone tries to force that feeling on me, or anyone else. Whenever I see or hear something like that, my hackles instantly rise, and it makes me not want to feel the emotion “they” are pushing so hard on me.  I’ve actually done this with people; if someone tries too hard to get my attention, I end up ignoring them, just on principle.

I know the phrase above is a marketing ploy (and believe me, I’ll post my rant on marketing ploys soon enough), and I know it wouldn’t be used if it weren’t effective, but I personally think the campaign could’ve been just as successful if they’d used something closer to the slogans they’ve got on their website.  The different stories of the women shown on the home page are of a much more positive spin, and would be just as persuasive in getting people to care.  It would be a “Look at all the people who have survived because of the money raised during our walks” sort of sentiment.

There might be some people who aren’t inspired to help unless their guilt is triggered, so maybe some good does come out of it, but I’d personally like it if companies would use positive emotions to inspire people, rather than playing them like puppets.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig Smith
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 08:31:50

    Alyx, well said. I think it comes down to one thing. Manipulation. You and I both resent the fact that such tactics are employed on us, trying to manipulate us into thinking as they want us to think or take the action they wish. As free thinkers, and not sheep, we resent the insult to our intelligence that they assume we don’t see the guilt-inducing manipulation they are trying to employ. Or that they don’t care and employ them anyway.
    As you stated, that puts us immediately on the defensive as we want to do the exact opposite of what they wish. This is too bad, since the people that employ those tactics usually have great causes and the best intentions in mind.
    I feel REALLY sorry for all those abused animals at the shelter, and for the starving kids in ‘underdeveloped’ countries, but I’m never going to contribute to those funds because of the guilt trip tactics they use in their commercials.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Sep 28, 2012 @ 08:34:39

      Absolutely, Craig. And thank you for mentioning the abused animals or “starving” children. Those are two other campaigns that turn me right off, which causes me to turn the channel immediately.

      Thanks for visiting today. 🙂


  2. Bette Golden Lamb
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 09:28:55

    As a breast cancer survivor, I am very thankful to organizations like Susan B. Komen and other wonderful groups who are raising money to help find a cure for a disease that cuts the potential of a long life for women.
    If you feel manipilated, that’s definitly not their intention. Rather, I think, they are seeking your empathy, and your money to help other human beings. I think it’s that simple.


    • Alyx Morgan
      Sep 28, 2012 @ 09:42:29

      Yes, they do wonderful things, & congratulations to you for being a survivor! But if they’re not going for manipulation, then they need to rethink their marketing campaigns.

      Thanks for visiting, Bette.


  3. Dana Fredsti
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 09:55:45

    Now, I’m with you on the guilt thing; however, that slogan doesn’t push my guilt buttons at all. If they tried to imply that without my help, someone would die… then I’d get my back up pretty quickly. As a slogan, that one strikes me personally as fairly innocuous. A funny story for you re: guilt. When I was little, I shoplifted a candy bar… Milk Duds, actually. I ate them and then felt so guilty about it that I buried the box under piles of horse poop out in the pasture. I felt guilty for days…


    • Alyx Morgan
      Sep 28, 2012 @ 10:06:20

      LOL, Dana. That’s a great story! Yeah, I shoplifted stray earrings from the floor of a Meijer (think Super Wal-Mart or Super Target) back home when I was a kid. I felt very guilty for that, too, but I never resorted to digging through manure. 😉

      Thanks for your perspective. Maybe my guilt complex was working overtime on that particular slogan.


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