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5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt


It’s amazing how quickly guilt can kick in for the smallest, most meaningless things in our lives.

Guilt is an emotional warning sign that most people learn through their normal childhood social development. Its purpose …

83 Comments to
5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt

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  1. I lied about being sick for 3 years. every day i lied to my family that i was very sick. my mom paid so much money to make me feel better, brought me to Mayo clinic and everything. I feel so awful. I can’t bear the thought of telling her that i lied. and yet i want this to go away. I feel like i lied about being sick because i was so sad, and i couldn’t get anyone to understand that… this is the first time i’ve ever told anyone. i didn’t do this for attention… i did it because i hurt so bad inside, and the only way they would understand is if it looked like it on the outside.
    i feel guilty about it everyday. right now i’m dying inside, hoping that i will get hit by a car or something, how i deserve the pain i gave to them and 10x more. i wasted my life in a state of depression self harm, and vomiting. part of me still feels like i am sick. i am fatigued, vomiting regularly (not on purpose) dizzy, and everything. i was diagnosed with numbers that cannot be lied about, it was a family disease too, my mom had it… so am i lying? should i feel guilty? i don’t even know anymore… who am i?

    • Dear whydididothis: It sounds very much to me like you have suffered much of your life with serious depression. Fortunately it is treatable. I would suggest you seek medical and psychological help, or both. Doing so is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
      Admitting your guilt on this forum was a great beginning.
      Know this, Jesus did not sacrifice himself so we should go through life filled with guilt. He wants you to live your life with happiness and joy.
      I wish you every success. God Bless You.

  2. Healthy guilt can prevent the re-occurrence of what caused the guilt to begin with. Next should come remorse. Sorrow for our actions.
    Hebrews 10: 12. Whereas this One [Christ], after He had offered a single sacrifice for our sins [that shall avail] for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…
    Jesus died for our sins, our guilt. Guilt is an emotion. It is not a tangible thing and we don’t have to continuously kick ourselves for past mistakes. Having asked for forgiveness we need to learn how to accept that forgiveness and “let it go”. Stop beating yourself up. We live in a world of spiritual warfare so the devil will continue to remind you of your past actions. He doesn’t want you to live guilt free but you can easily defeat him through Christ our Lord.

  3. What about people who feel guilty all the time about things they can’t control? I feel guilty constantly for wanting more, more financial freedom, more personal freedoms a vacation (haven’t had one in 16 years) and then I feel guilty because there are so many people with way bigger problems than I have, people with kids who have cancer, people who can’t feed their children, but yet I always want more than I have. I’m allowed to desire things, but wish I could get rid of all the guilt I feel when I do wish for more in life.

    • Hi Les. How about if you had it all and you threw it away and blamed everyone else. Also I have a great life with a lot to be thankful for but I continue to wish fir more. It is a prison and I know no amount of wishing or praying will change it. Please know there are many of us out there.

  4. Guilt is an important emotion. God shows me things about myself through it all the time. Jim makes a great point, God does take all of that apon himself with his death. I am always aware of this. I also am concious that he put guilt in me so I can recognise my sin and my need for forgiveness. He also helps me with my relationships through guilt. Reminds me when I need to speak to someone differently, relate to someone differently and appologise to someone to maintain a relationship with him. So yes guilt is healthy. But I have found it interesting reading alot of comments and thinking about the different ways that guilt is Gods tool to show us that our world is not perfect and we should be focusing and reaching for something more.

  5. I was keeping malice with a neighbour, and he has been trying to talk to me but i didn’t give face now he is dead. I am passing thru hell due to guilt. My mind is always telling me that i would ve talked to him and leave everthing.please advise me i am passing through psychological trauma.

    • Hi Pamela,
      I can understand how you feel. I have had many rows with people over the years and longed to put it right but I can’t, usually because I don’t know where they are now. It sounds like you were feeling pretty hurt at the time. You were not to know that he was going to die. Your neighbour is now at peace and his feelings will have died with him. It sounds like he wanted to try to heal your hurt when he was trying to speak to you. If he couldn’t do that for you when he was alive, you can still accept it now and you can both be at peace. I’m a Christian and I know that there is no sin which cannot be forgiven. Your neighbour wouldn’t want you to be tortured like this. God bless.

  6. EVEN WHEN I’VE SAID SOMETHING IN THE PAST THAT WAS APPROPRIATE, WHEN I THINK ABOUT IT IN THE PRESENT I FEEL GUILTY. THIS BOTHERS ME. HAPPILY ITS LESS NOW.

    • sometimes i feel guilty even when ive done nothing wrong. but i know i cant change the way i feel at the moment. what to do?

  7. For the last 4 years i have been lying to my family and friends about a lot of things. I was all prepared for my 12th exams but i did not give my exams for i simply did not feel like. i had no courage to reveal it to my parents so I made up a story and somehow managed them into believing that i scored very well. Obviously since I couldnt clear my high school i couldnt go for higher studies. I managed them to permit me to opt out of collage and work. now im working with a 13hrs a day routine earning a lot. maybe as much as none in my family could imagine. and they all respect me for that. but again there are still a lot of facts i have kept them oblivious to. things they should know. but they are very very happy presently. me confessing it all and apologizing would ruin everything. god may forgive me but my parents wont. Im dying of guilt here. I have no idea whether to hang on to the situation or do something about it.

  8. With me, my guilt focuses directly on the emotions of the person I have hurt through very careless, selfish and reckless actions. I have been obsessing about how my actions have affected that person emotionally, and it’s very difficult to let go of that. You know you have caused someone emotional pain, and you cannot make amends for what happened in the past, no matter how hard you try. I have apologized and tried to move on, but something always seems to bring me back to the anxiety that comes with obsessive guilt. Right now, I am trying to focus on the fact that my feelings of guilt have, in a way, made amends for my actions, because I *understand* and *recgonize* that my actions were wrong, and I am not going to repeat them and make the same mistake of hurting someone else. Secondly, I am beginning to realize the damage that guilt does to those around me. Chronic guilt is unhealthy for me, but it also compromises my relationships with loved ones. If I’m focusing on the guilt, I can’t easily focus on doing the best I can for the people I love. That isn’t fair on them. It’s a case of learning how to let go, piece by piece, and ultimately forgiving yourself for being imperfect and human.

  9. Thanks for this. I’ve been feeling guilt and wasn’t sure how to describe it or even thought it was guilt until recently. Been mulling over it for a month when I encountered an incident on the street that I tried to help, but don’t know if I did or just walked away. Turned out to be really bad as I found out the next day from the cops and the news.

    Then I encountered a similar incident just a few days ago. Again, I tried to help, but I ended up walking away because I didn’t know how much I can intrude. I freaked out when I got home.

    I didn’t think of it being guilt, because I couldn’t decide if I did anything wrong. I did what I thought was right at the time, but in only retrospect I maybe could have done more? …for better or worse?

    Thank you for this article. I think better understand what I’m feeling.

  10. My friend’s really self conscious about her weight, and we were jokingly insulting each other. She called me a Fart. (FAAAAAAAAART)
    And in return, I called her a fartie.(FARTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIE) But that’s not what happened. The R didn’t show up and it ended up being “FATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTIIIIIIE”
    It was one simple typo. And it could’ve ruined her life. I feel so bad. but you can’t take away the past. I apologized a million times, but it’s not going to fix anything. Sure it was a typo, but still. It’s there. And I can’t take it back.

  11. Thank you for these tips!! I did something silly a few days ago that really angered someone (a complete stranger). I regret it so much and have had a knot in my chest ever since. I pride myself on (usually) being a very kind, considerate person and am furious and disappointed with myself for having done something so thoughtless. This clear little article has helped enormously. I now understand better why I feel so bad and why I’m having trouble dealing with my guilt. I also feel I know better what I might be able to do to make amends. Thank you.

  12. This is one of the best advice ive read on this feeling ! I’ve been guilty of having chatted in a derogatory manner about a female colleague with a friend and she happened to read it!and for no reason coz i actually liked her as a person ! I was feeling very guilty since the time i saw the hurt in her eyes. I have’nt been able to bring it up with her as she remains distant from me now. But reading your advice is definitely a big help. I hope i can make amends someday

  13. Beautifully written. I had huge guilt around circumstances surrounding my
    Mothers death and it plagued me for years and years. I finally found resolution using some of the tips above and some others and wrote about it on my blog which also helped. Guilt is a very powerful emotion, one that often goes unaddressed. The more we can talk about it and reduce the stigma and mystery, the better.

  14. im currently going through guilt. me and my friend always are joking around all the time. this guy likes her and my friend doesn’t like him back because she already has a boyfriend (i haven’t personally seen her boyfriend because he goes to a different school). so whenever i see the guy that likes her i always pull a joke bout him and her. at first she laughed and will be like omg. but now she doesn’t laugh anymore and would just give me the ‘i hate you’ stare. and this othe guy in our school looks like her boyfriend so i said that and she got offended. she told my sister this (that she finds me really mean and i offend her a lot) and she told me not to tell me. my sis told me anyways and now i feel soooooo bad. it’s insane! and also i call her by her name that it is actually pronounced and i don’t know if she finds that offensive too because she tells me to stop sometimes. i can’t even say sorry to her now because then she will know that my sis told me and she will lose trust in my sis and hate me forever. i just don’t know what to do. this is making me hate myself for what i did. for somebody reading this, it may seem small, but for me this is huge! :'( #guilty

  15. 4 2013
    I found this article to be most helpful. Obviously, it’s brief, but if helps to make us aware of the most basic info. on guilt. I will use this for myself and my friends.

    And if you say you didn’t find it helpful then maybe it’s you and not the article…Get me? Keep searching baby…

  16. My daughter fell in the park today and broke her front tooth. The dentist fixed it and she seems fine. My mind knows it was an accident, but how can I get over the guilt of letting her play and run around when I knew she was going too fast?

  17. (When i was 20) 8 months ago, i was in a corner store. There were lots of teen ( they were like 14) and all of them were smoking. Then i saw one of my friend, i went to him. He was with one of those teen. The teen said to my friend : Do you think he will want? and i said : What? And then he said: Can you buy my cigarrettes? And he hand me his 10$. I laughed and said yes. When the deed was done i went to the bathroom and after and the cashier was waiting for me ad he told me that what i done was illegal and i could get a 600$ fine (fortunately i only got a warning)

    I was shocked. Why the hell did i do that? I don’t smoke and i hate cigarrettes. How could i have been so dumb?

    My friend told me that it wasnt so bad, it was just a mistake. I asked him to never tell this story to anyone, i always fear judgement and what people think of me is important to me.

    I felt so guilty that after 3 days of torturing myself mentally i actually PRAYED a thing that i never do because im not really close to god. But i actually prayed. Then i realised that maybe i was worrying too much.

    I did not initiate him to smoke, it was HIS 10$, if he smokes that HIS problem. If i hadnt bought them for him, someone else would have done it since all the others teen had cigarrettes.( Also why the hell is it illegal for him to buy,but not to smoke? )

    Its been 8 months and i STILL think about it. I keep telling to myself that we all do mistakes,nobody is perfect, there all people who do much worse daily and then feel bad and that yes it was a mistake but i learned what was guilt. I have been irreponsible ( the firts time of my life )yes, and its NOT going to happend again, if i teen ask for cigarrettes again i will says NO!

    Plus the fact that i feel bad shows that im a good person( right?)

    Maybe since this is the worst crime i’ve done in my life is the reason why i feel so bad. I keep telling that is just ONE pack of cigarrettes (my father smoked his whole life and he’s fine)

    Its not the end of the world but i still can’t stop thinking about that. I try really hard to not think about it, and that made me a better person since i’ve learned what was guilt and that thre is no point in worrying anymore but each time of i see or hear the word ”cigarrettes” it reminds me of this and it make me suffer mentally.

    Its seems cannot put that behind me and i don’t understand why after all this time.

  18. I Come from a poor family and my father died when I was in the second year at university. My mother worked as a domestic servant to raise me and my five siblings. I pledged that I would study hard and get a job and support my mother and the siblings. I got my degree and landed a job in Africa. The salary was not attractive, but with that income I managed to support my mother and my brother sisters. I got all my sisters married. Things were fine until I got married. I expected my mother to love me and my wife, but she hated my wife from the very first day. My wife did not complain and she joined me in Africa after three months. My mother continued to be unhappy about whatever I did. She wrote a letter to me that contained false allegations about my wife and I beat my wife. That was a terrible mistake on my part. My dream was to have a loving extended family where mother loved all of us and were we all including my wife and two children would spend holidays happily. But my wife knew well that my mother was a difficult person and I vouch that she was right. But I hated her saying that my mother was bad; I refused to accept the truth. That led to quarrels at my home (in Africa) and as a result my children did not get a happy childhood. I believed that my advice would transform my mother into a better person, but she grew worse in her attitude and behavior. My children are grown up now and they are living with the pain I gave them. I am living with terrible guilt that I did wrong to my wife and my children. I can not forgive myself. Every moment of my life is a terrible torture for me that I mistreated my wife and children so badly with absolutely no justification at all. I do not know what to do. Recently mailed to my wife and my children letters stating that I erred and I am terribly guilty. One of my daughters is still very bitter about me and refuses to communicate with me. I cannot blame her. My wife and my children deserved much better. I am extremely bitter about my mother and do not even feel like seeing her. She does not speak to me even now. I knew that my mother was bad, yet I pleaded with her to love us. I am lost now. I have very terrible mental agony that I did not treat my wife and children fairly. What should I do?

  19. Some time last year I gave my Best friend a gun, he was nearly killed prior to me giving it to him and gave it to him as a means of self defense, I tought him proper maintainace, safe handling, marksmanship, proficiency,etc. All was well until About a month ago,he shot and killed a man in a drunken stooper with said gun, He was subsequently arrested,charged, and sentenced to life in prison. His entire family blames me for giving him the gun, and while I gave him it with the best intentions, I feel horrible, I drink every night, I have dreams where I take it back before He could do the crime. Sometimes I think I’m over it, but then it sets in. I’ll never see my best friend again, because I gave him the stupid gun and tought him to shoot. and the guilt I am feeling is overwhelming. I have since talked with his mother, she no longer blames me, but damnit I blame myself everyday. Thoughts on handling this anyone?

    • You can’t read what is in a person’s mind or heart. I see people on the freeway all the time texting on their phones. They have been warn so much about the dangers. but they choose to do it. they do a very stupid thing that eventually will catch up to them. Nevertheless, it is their choice. The question is now, what will you do with this experience. In the Bible, restitution is necessary when we do something wrong. We are forgiven by God through Jesus death on the cross,”for all have sinned”. This is a wonderful gift. Still, the pain is felt. What must you do. 1. accept Jesus as your sacrificial lamb. 2. Believe that you are forgiven (this is not a feeling) it is a fact. 3. Do good to others, 4. tell people how important and precious life is.5.Remember, only God can lift this pain and guilt

  20. Thank-you. The post helped me immensely.

  21. Yesterday I locked my truck with the keys and my baby inside. Triple A, police and a fire engine were there within 15 minutes. Baby was a sleep and unaware of everything, I feel horrible. Especially feel guilty bcuz I told my husband that I locked him inside but that the window was left partially open and I unlocked it myself. I lied to him. -bcuz of guilty feelings, feeling scared, disapointment in myself -basically felt like a reAl dumb ass!!! Not the first time-Too scared & gutless to tell him the “whole” truth. Feeling guilty and hating myself

  22. First of all. If guilt is a feeling then there is no standard except one’s feelings. but if guilt is based upon a standard such as the ten commandments then it is not a feeling, it is based upon an innate moral code. In war, in crimes, when someone participates directly or indirectly a moral code that is universal is violated. this is not a feeling. Some people enjoy violating others and hurting others. They experience joy in what they do. Nevertheless, they are guilty of going against a moral code. It is not a feeling. Psychologists need to study morality based upon a universal spirituality. Carl Rogers was not a priest no did he establish a new religion regarding guilt. But it seems that psychology has set into to something that in not in its scope of practice. It does great damage to the human spirit.

  23. This article helped me clear my thoughts and remove my stress from obsessively trying to distinguish between healthy guilt and unhealthy guilt. Now i can make progress.
    sincerely,Thank you.

  24. I just bailed out on a volunteer activity I had committed to because I didn’t want to do it to begin with. I convinced myself that I had a valid reason for backing out the night before, but now I know I was just making excuses because it’s cold and I could think of a million other things I wanted to do instead. It’s rare for me to not fulfill my commitments so this morning I felt incredibly guilty for backing out. I read your article and it helped me my mistake into perspective. I donated to the organization this morning and marked my calendar to volunteer when the weather is warmer. I will also remember this feeling when I make a commitment to something. I agreed to do this even though my heart was not in it. I need to think about what I commit to and if it is something I want to actually spend my time doing. I would have been resentful if I had spent my whole day today at this thing instead I feel guilty for not going- it was a no win proposition for me. I will be more careful with my word in the future. Thanks for the great advice!

  25. Guilt could either go good or bad depending on how you channel that energy. It’s guilt that reminds us why we shouldn’t do anything and sometimes try to do good to subconsciously make up for it. That’s why we usually see a few people doing extra good deeds. It’s a way to tell not only the world, but themselves that they’re nice people and aren’t the horrible people they might think of themselves.

    However, if we let guilt take control of us the wrong way, that’s when we become angry and take our rage out upon others. It makes us bitter and causes us to push away from others.

  26. Thank you, brother.

  27. Hello John,

    I found your article very enlightening and I am going to use your ideas in my Bible study today. I thank you for your contribution to all of us.

    God bless you,

    Bruce.

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