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5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

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 is to let us know when we’ve done something wrong, …

73 Comments to
5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt

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  1. Ironically? There was an instance this Holiday at Thanksgiving when my sister offered a rude, cruel, mean, and hurtful response to what was to me a significant several actions in our family. When I confronted my Mom about whom these remarks referred she said “don’t listen to your sister.” My case manager and doctors/therapists offered “had she been drinking?” Of course I am riddled with guilt about even speaking or going over these thoughts which are plaguing me for days and even a week now. This article helped me put it into perspective somewhat.

  2. I see that guilt is almost mastefully made release or detactchment from whatever behavior or indicent, offense ect,…causing
    you the guilt to now see what you might not have at all at a crucial moment with a loved one. The great thing, at least n most cases is that guilt is truly felt and highly trained professionals can detect this. However too much guilt or un pratical reactrions to guilt that never cease can prove to be destructive.
    Guilt also allows the most severemanipulator to turn it on like a non human link tt omeet other .

  3. Let us not forget the differnce between feeling quily and feeling shame. To acknowledge that one has broken a rule or failed to maintain a standard is very different than feeling oneself is flawed and wrong. Being shame-based can totally destroy any self-esteem a person might have. (or could have had)

  4. I thought this article was useless. The opening quote, “It’s amazing how quickly guilt can kick in for the smallest, most meaningless things in our lives,” led me to believe that this was going to be an article about coping with irrational guilt. Ie: the meaningless things that trigger guilt. Instead, the article was about listening to healthy guilt. While that may have been a useful topic, the introduction was misleading, and I think that this article appearing on a mental health website and not a “dealing with stress” website was inappropriate. Personally my issue is “irrational guilt,” and that’s what I expected to read about.

    • He’s a psychologist, not a writer.

  5. It’s an article about coping with guilt, period (hence the title). While I don’t expect everyone to benefit from every article we publish here, we do our best. Sorry we disappointed you in this instance.

  6. This is an important topic and I would like to hear more on: the distinction between what is appropriate and inappropriate guilt varies depending on one’s cultural and social context. Also guilt may be appropriate as an early warning sign, but not appropriate in its intensity or duration in a particular circumstance. Guilt (appropriate or not) can be used as a weapon or a distraction in an interaction, which is not a constructive way to resolve problems.

    Cinda Hocking, MSW
    Internal Energy Plus Consultant
    http://cindahocking.blogspot.com

  7. Why should something so useless be a bother, I have never felt guilt for more than a day and that was more or less just the feeling about getting caught doing something I more than likely should not have done, but after a day, I rarely thought about what ever it was again. So I just say ignore guilt altoghter since it is a waste of time and energy.

  8. What happens if the thing that you’ve done to cause the guilt is irreversible? It’s possible to apologize, but not actually make amends?

  9. Why is it that a recovring alcholic (myself) feels guilty about not following my mothers religion. I’ve be sober for 4 years and my concience keeps haunting me. The reason I drank was to get away from religion; and now that I stopped drinking religion haunts me.

  10. Is it possible to feel really guilty about a mistake, but then keep making it? I have made the same mistake 3 times now, and feel guiltier every time I do it, so you’d think I would learn a lesson. I am to the point now where I am having nightmares, and extreme anxiety, but even though I have been dealing with the dreams and such for a couple months now, I did it again while drunk this weekend. I can’t tell anyone about it, so maybe that is making the guilt worse, but I want to be able to learn from my mistakes and move on, and I don’t know how to convince myself I have paid enough for what I have done (cause I am getting off pretty scot-free from a social perspective.) On top of feeling guilty, I am constantly worried someone will find out. What would anyone recommend in this situation? How is guilt useful now?

  11. OK, so, we’ve touched on the guilt that we feel when we’ve done something subjectively “bad”, “hurtful”, or “wrong”. Normal human emotions are not so floppy and one-dimensional; guilt is a broad spectrum emotional reaction. What about predatory guilt? How do you cope with the guilt that others inflict upon us as a control mechanism?

    It’s easy to figure-out why we feel guilty when we’ve obviously done something to merit a guilt response. And, carving-out new channels, making amends, and coping are efficaious only in so much as the guilt response is warranted by our behavior. What if it isn’t? What if guilt is a typical control mechanism of our families when we respond to some slight or injustice they’ve made against us? How do you cope when they subdue you with guilt for responding to that injustice? What are the long-term psychological rammifications to repressing or attempting to ignore those feelings?

  12. i thought this was a good artical. i dont feel better lol but i think with practice of not being a “liberty taker” ill feel better.

    i borrowed money and i havent gave it back yet! friends and family and its a considerable amount. even though my intentions were/are good and faithfull. i havent gave it back yet and i feel guilty about taking that liberty.

    i also took my brothers shirts and things like that which is the same thing only different situation. “they looked better on me” lol ;)

    so ive always had the issuse just never noticed. ive considered myself to be a good example of a person for 21 years until now “im 21″ this is the only bad thing about me that i know of. its a serious one though.

    i hope i move on and change this.

    knowing my luck ill be wearing pajamas and strolling round sum fucking mental home in 2 years…….lol

    neways hope u all get your problems sorted out.

    and remember!

    we’re “all in the same field”
    just down different holes

    ;) i made that up myself ay lol

    kind reguards sean.

  13. Your entry has given me very practical analogy of guilt feelings am going through. I know now I don,t have to sacrifice myself for mistakes made, but should learn from the experience.

  14. You know..I have been feeling extreme guilt for almost 1.5 years now at the way i ended my ex’s relationship with her.I showed her no respect and she treated me very well but she did have some issues she didn’t deserve to be treated like i treated her.I at the time was in very foul moods and didn’t realize i was having depression problems.and stress issues which led to medication to this day.I know now i must email her and tell her what i think of her which is of only the highest nature and my actions towards her were so very bad not to show her the respect in the end she earned and deserved.all i can say is think about how your mouth will affect other people in the end.although i have learned a very painful lesson and do not act like that anymore i feel i owe her alot.but all i can do is a email.but i guess it’s better than nothing.i don’t know.

  15. this article helped but im going to bite the bullet and tell her, guilt has been eating at me for so long now and its getting me down,
    its cost me my relationship but hopefully taught me a lesson

    time is the best healer of all pain

  16. What if we did something to an innocent person and there is no way to make amends? What do I do then?

  17. Hello all above,

    I am impressed with the number of people and important comments I find in this website. Thanks John for the articles, this is a good way to take advantage of technology to help people.

    A suggestion, if I may, is to add a note, right below the title, or some where before the article, stating that these are articles with some limitations regarding how the reader can make use of it to help himself or herself, and how effective they may be depending on the case.

    In many cases, economic limitations, distance, shame, etc., prevents people from looking for professional help and try to use self “therapy” applying what articles like this state, sometimes we can, sometimes problems need a professional to help.
    As for guilt, sometimes it comes to accept we failed, give an apology, and move on. Long remorse is not a healthy practice.

    In any case, this blog is great, and I hope many people are already seeing some benefit.

    Best!

    Miguel A. Cerna, MA

  18. This didn’t help

  19. Dear John,

    Thank you so much for this, it has really helped.

  20. Dear John,
    I agree with Christene and “ca”. This article didn’t help me at all. I am being sunk by irrational guilt, guilt of not helping enough around the house, when I actually do just as much if not more than anyone else, guilt from saying no, guilt from not being able to say no, guilt from being too nice, guilt from not being nice enough, guilt from not thinking enough, guilt from overthinking… In other words, my guilt is the type your title refers to, not the type discussed in your article. I’m trying desperately to figure out what the hell is wrong with me and your article only focuses on people who have a pretty damn good reason to feel guilty. What about those of us who try so damn hard to be good, but end up just disappointing everyone we care about? Sorry for dumping on you, but since I feel too guilty to talk about this with my wife or friends, I’ve decided to attack an “unknown” person which lets me feel a little less guilty than if I unloaded this on someone close.
    - Geoff

  21. I am living the most guilty moments of my life and I mean it. I really do not think I will ever get over this situation at all. I lost the love of my life my fiancée because I was angry at her and her parents, I said something racial and humiliating about her background and religion. She did forgive me few times but then broke up with me. I do not know how to get over this. I feel that my life stopped and there is nothing I am good for anymore. She definitely think I am a racist. Maybe I am. Does anybody think this is something that I can get over ? I mean this is not different from comitting a murder.

  22. To SL:

    Thinking through exactly why you said what you did and then — only after reaching a complete understanding of what really happened — writing a letter to her can help a lot. As long as people are alive, there’s still time; it’s best to make up for things like that and find resolution whenever possible.

    In short, there is a reason you said what you did. A long time ago I used to have very racist and hateful thoughts toward other people; they were uncontrollable, and though I wanted them to stop, they kept bombarding me until finally (thank God) they stopped. I don’t think you’re a racist. I for one know I’m not. However, this doesn’t mean that racist thoughts aren’t possible; because ultimately, it has nothing to do with race.

    It has to do with a buildup of frustration and stress, which can often be subconscious, and a trigger that unleashes all that torment in a single moment. When I was a child, I got so angry at my dad — a diabetic — and I said I hoped he’d go blind and die of it. As far as I remember I had an awful childhood, but all the things I did when I was so little…I can’t justify it. We say ‘he’s just a kid,’ but I have done so many horrific and irreversible things; I would give anything to be able to go back in time and redo those moments. It’s irreversible now, and coping with facing the consequences of everything I’ve done is just starting to torture me, after so many years of repressing and blocking those memories.

    This is why I say, if there is still time, do all you can: if retribution is at all possible, search for it with an open heart, and repent as fully as you can — again, if that’s possible. I’m assuming your fiancee is still available to talk to; if that’s true, I think the healthiest thing would be to let her know of your guilt and your true feelings about the whole situation, and how much this is tormenting you — do not make any excuses. Just be straightforward and honest; forget about your attachment to her, and focus only on her — if you’re sorry for hurting her, making her feel better would naturally be the #1 priority. I trust that you will be able to resolve this situation in due time, with enough courage and effort.

    I wronged someone before in a similar way; I wrote her a letter trying to explain everything, but never got a reply, and she refuses to have any contact with me whatsoever. The guilt used to bother me, but how I see it, in being completely willing to make amends for the past, I’m doing my part; I can’t force anyone to do anything, and if they refuse to accept an apology, it’s no longer my concern. Keep your heart warm, and it won’t be affected by other people’s coldness. This is key.

    I wish you the best; that has to be an incredibly painful situation, but remember not to lose hope, and neither to lose sight of what you can still do to atone for things you’ve done in the past. I can’t undo what I’ve done in my life, for example, but trying to help other people avoid the mistakes I made is much better than writhing alone in torture. It’s a difficult road to walk, but I will tell you that you’re not alone. Be strong.

    Geoff:

    “What about those of us who try so damn hard to be good, but end up just disappointing everyone we care about?”

    Let me put it this way: I believe we owe people respect and consideration. I’m guilty of avoiding this because of my timid nature/lack of assertiveness: I personally disappoint people because I often make promises when I know I can’t keep them, strictly because I’ll feel bad if I say ‘no.’ My lack of assertiveness leads me to disappoint people because it leads me to be dishonest with people. And it’s ironic, because by not saying ‘no’ I’m attempting not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in the long run it ends up hurting their feelings much more, and can also make them very angry with me.

    That’s one way to disappoint people — making promises you don’t keep out of a fear of saying ‘no’ or feeling like you’re hurting someone’s feelings. This will necessitate some cultivation: it can be very hard to say ‘no’ because we feel like we’re hurting someone’s feelings, but being honest and respectful is 10000 times better than being dishonest and respectful.

    It isn’t wrong to tell someone ‘no,’ or to refuse to make promises. I actually think the world would be a much more agreeable place if more people were so honest and open. So assertiveness has a lot to do with this.

    “Sorry for dumping on you, but since I feel too guilty to talk about this with my wife or friends…”

    That statement seems to say it all; is it that you feel too guilty to talk about this with your wife or your friends, or is it that you’re afraid that you’ll hurt their feelings by being honest with them?

    Your comment leads me to believe that you have a mild but sensitive nature; you might be acutely aware of other people’s feelings, and afraid of hurting them — even in the smallest way. This can lead to ‘hypervigilence,’ as in, you might be overly cautious of talking to people for fear of hurting their feelings.

    I know I’m going on and on here, but that is a very important point, and personally knowing how difficult it is to go from being a hugely passive person to an assertive person, I know it necessitates a lot of re-construction in the mind. ‘Old habits die hard,’ as they say.

    The only other type of guilt associated with ‘needless guilt’ is a sense of personal failure. It isn’t guilt about doing something wrong, but a sensation of ‘not doing enough.’ Realizing your limits as a human being, and loving your neighbor AS you love yourself is *very* important. Love others…AS…you love yourself.

    If we think we always fall short, then we always will fall short, simply because our standards are too high for anyone to meet; this perpetuates a cycle of misery and self-destruction, and benefits no one. Getting out of it is very hard, but it is possible, and it does involve a heavy amount of contemplation and an honest desire to change.

    If you do something nice for someone else, and they brush you off or say you haven’t done enough, maintaining politeness and respect and honesty are all you need: ‘I did the best I could’ is enough, if it’s true that you really did do the best you could. If you didn’t do the best you could do, then you can explain that as well, and still reach a resolution with the person even if things didn’t work out well before.

    I highly recommend looking inward and observing why you’re having these thoughts, and progressing to talking to your wife and your friends about whatever’s bothering you. I will assume you all care about each other: if this is so, then with enough contemplation and bravery to get things out in the open, I see no reason why you eventually wouldn’t be able to resolve all these conflicts.

    Keep your intentions pure and love others as you love yourself, and the rest will fall into place. Again, it’s a difficult path, but it can be taken if you’re determined to walk it.

    If it helps you out any, as I said earlier in this comment, I would do anything to be able to undo the things I’ve done in the past. I do have a damn good reason to feel guilty; this is a horrible feeling, simply because I know that sealed in time is suffering I have caused others that I am absolutely powerless to remove.

    Either way, though, it takes courage; changing our lifelong behaviors is scary, and accepting punishment for what we’ve done is also scary. As I said before, be strong, and I’ll try my best to do the same. Thanks for sharing.

  23. This was a very helpful article.

    I rated it low accidentally – was trying to click on 5 stars.

    And now I feel guilty again! I need to go back and re-read the article :-)

  24. hi all

    i think that everything that everyone has expressed has made this article into what it always was, i found this due to my own guilt that i have been feeling for a long time.

    my girlfriend said that i have to let go of the guilt because the ex partner concerned has played on my guilt to make me even worse. my self esteem was never that good and over the time i had with my ex i was battered by both her and myself. i will let go of the guilt because i have apologised in person and also tried to make amends with my 2 children who i havent seen in about 7 years due to the relationship breakdown and me moving so far away to retreat from the broken emotional hurt.

    i retreated yes but the problems i had moved with me and the guilt has never gone away, i cannot say enough though that punishing ourselves is very destructive and we all know it, but find it difficult to even realise sometimes that we are feeling guilt or shame and put it down to other things such as depression and anxiety.

    i now think that the depression and anxiety i have been feeling are a bi product of the guilt but i have always just tried to think of an amazing huge way to right the wrongs that i was always under too much pressure from myself due to not thinking i had even done enough before, and a huge lack of assertiveness had always made me feel like i was being taken advantage of which caused problems.

    thank you all for the input and i will probably re-read it all again as now i dont feel so alone.

  25. 3. Accept you did something wrong, but move on.

    If you did something wrong or hurtful, you will have to accept that you cannot change the past. But you can make amends for your behavior, if and when it’s appropriate. Do so, apologize, or make-up for the inappropriate behavior in a timely manner, but then let it go. The more we focus on believing we need to do something more, the more it will continue to bother us and interfere with our relationships with others.

    Guilt is usually very situational. That means we get into a situation, we do something inappropriate or hurtful, and then we feel badly for a time. Either the behavior wasn’t so bad or time passes, and we feel less guilty. If we recognize the problem behavior and take action sooner rather than later, we’ll feel better about things (and so will the other person) and the guilt will be alleviated. Obsessing about it, however, and not taking any type of compensatory behavior (such as apologizing, or changing one’s negative behavior) keeps the bad feelings going. Accept and acknowledge the inappropriate behavior, make your amends, and then move on.

    Thanks so much.

  26. This article was really helpful. I would also like to suggest http://bit.ly/dnbT7k . Hope this too will help people.

  27. i have pushed my guilt deep down for years and years and years! i told everyone long ago that i knew it wasn’t my fault, and i was ok. but, clearly i am not. when i was a teenager, i called my mom to come pick me up, and on the way home we were in an extremely horrific car accident. i can’t even describe the pain she went through, and has still had major health problems from it ever since. i can’t help but feel responsible, and i can’t get over it. i’ve masked my guilty feelings with drugs and alcohol over the years, and now that i have a child of my own, i know i need to deal with this in a healthy way. any thoughts, suggestions, comments? i haven’t really expressed this to anyone in person.
    thanks in advance!

  28. The article mentions that there’s “healthy guilt” wherein you change your behavior to avoid the same mistake. And there’s “unhealthy guilt” where you shouldn’t actually feel guilty for what you did. It seems like the guilt I am feeling wasnt actually mentioned in the article. I was at fault for something horrible, but now that it has happened, there is nothing I can do to take away the guilt. My fiance’s kitten was sick, and as money was tight, I didn’t want to take him into the vet for an “emergency” visit. So we set an appointment for the end of the week. The kitten died the day of the appointment. I realize now that I should have been willing to spend $100,000 if it meant that it would save the kitten, since money is just a hollow, material, un-fulfilling object, but if I could have saved the kitten, he would have been a giver and getter of love in our lives for years and years. But no matter how I feel about it now, there’s still nothing I can do to make amends for the horrible thing that I have done! I thought time would help me through it but this was about a year and a half ago and I still find myself sobbing hysterically over it. Furthermore, I feel that if it were MY kitten, then I could have gotten over it, but since my fiance had a strong bond with the kitten, and it broke his heart when he died, I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive myself, even though he said he didn’t hold me responsible. There’s the obvious “Next time I will put family members (including pets) before money”, but that is a passive behavior change, and does very little to console me. I hope someone who reads this can offer up help on how to overcome my guilt mixed with grief. I have tried to find websites and support groups for this kind of thing and there seems to be very little support available. I have been very self-destructive lately and I know I need help to get over this.
    Thank you!

    • MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU.I HAVE HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE WITH A CAT.(I AM A ANIMAL LOVER JUST LIKE YOU.)IT IS HARD TO GO THRU LIFE WITHOUT DOING SOMETHING THAT YOU FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.IT WILL GET BETTER WITH TIME.LOOK UP “GUILT” ON THE COMPUTER AND READ UP ON IT.ALSO, TRY THE BOOKSTORE.FEEL FREE TO E-MAIL ME IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. PS-TRY TO MAKE UP FOR IT—WE HAVE ADOPTED A DOG AND CAT THAT WERE ABANDONED AMONG OTHER THINGS. I HOPE THIS HELPS.

  29. Uhg i feel so bad. I wrote a bunch of mean things in my diary about my father when i was mad at him for lieing and also for another family issue that involved child services…he found it read it and cried like a baby. I don’t think i can apologize cause I’m still mad at him for doing those things. But i still feel bad that he cried…

  30. i did something that i know is really horrible, to another person, it is way worse than cheating on a husband or wife and even worse than murder. i live with it everday of my life. i have told no one. i am really sorry for what i have done, i sometimes wish i was dead, so that i wont have to deal with the guilt anymore, and for punishment. i hurt so bad, because i know i hurt someone else, who will also have to live with this for the rest of their lives. i am afraid to talk about it to them, but i know it will never go away if i dont. i dont think i will ever have what it takes to talk about it. i think about it every day, what if my family finds out? they will hate me forever, i will be so ashamed, mortified. when people see me they will only see what i did. why did i do it? why cant i just take it back, i am disgusted with myself.

  31. (sorry for my english)what about reparative acts? have you ever thinked that you can in some way help those affected by acts similar to yours? I mean,if a person have ever abused a child in any way for example and feels guilty about it, he/she should do reparative acts helping/assisting foundations that prevent those acts. It’s not hipocratic, it’s a realistic form of healing. You shoul/must see a psychologyst,they’ve heard a lot worse I assure you and they can cope with you

  32. idon’t have my father, my mother is working.i did nt have any frenz.. i have always been very dependent on others for guidence or to take any decisions. since i lost my dad, 1 guy proposed me and i accepted it. the relation (physical too) went on for 3 years. then he left me. then i was shattered then. after some tym. anoder guy, i found on net. i thought him to be a fren and discussed with him about my past. he kind of showed sympathy and said that he would marry, and i was depressed, though never loved him, made relations with him. and then soon wen i realized that my life wasn’t going on the right track i broke off with him. then, my life was goin good. studyimng well. after a year or two. found one of my childhood frenz. he kinda fell in love with me. but i neva wanted to get into any relationshhip. and clearly told him that i dun love him and are just frenz cuz his everyday calling and meeting was getting me drifted. so i suddenly stopped talking to him too.
    now there is this guy whom i want to marry and love him dearly. but this guilt of being into prior relationships and not being virgin kill me everyday and i could not love him as much i feel. please guide me.

  33. I think it is important to make the distinction between guilt and shame. Guilt can be an early warning sign (“I am doing something bad”) and shame is the belief that the self is bad (“I am a bad person.”). I often see clients who have felt SO guilty for SO long that they develop a shame-based personality structure. Internalized guilt (depending on the intensity and duration) may eventually lead to shame and low self-esteem.

  34. I feel really guilty and sometimes its irrational guity with anxiety in public places even if I sit next to someone i can’t relax its a constant battle. I sometimes feel like i’m being punnished for example I said something really bad about my best friend in high school that’s haunted me forever i dont know why i said it it started as a joke we used to laugh about but I told some other girls that i thought were my friend and they made my my best friend sound horrible, exaggerating what I told them as a joke and when my friend came back from her holidays too all these horrible rumours and i was off ill so i didn’t see her a day after she came back, with her already branded with stigma and I guess she never talked to me when she saw me and I should have appologized straight away but i was a coward and didn’t i felt my window of opportunity drift away and after that circumstances has led me to be very anxiety prone added with an extreme case of guilt so that one by one i have distanced myself from my former friends and feel i don’t deserve friends but when i feel i want company and someone to go to the cinema i am incapable and i have lost all my social skills and get very axious around people even when i am just sitting next to them. I also feel very self-destructive, lonely and depressed. Especially when I see people going out with their friends or having fun.

    This depression has had me seeking comfort in books, so just reading but no matter how many books I read they are just a temporary distraction and there isn’t enough in the world to fill up this hole i have in my chest. I feel even more guilty for avoiding the world, letting my best years slip through my fingers and hiding in a book.

    Plus does anyone have that feeling that when they say something like “I’ve never been chased by a dog” it comes true and you get chased by a dog the next day, this happens to me! not with good stuff I’ve experimented, only the crappy bad stuff comes true so I dont say anything horrific (I believe everyone has this gift try it!). Anyway point is my sister (who is said I dont have any friends and then bam I didn’t, not saying they went up in a poof of smoke but they slowly drifted away and I could feel it in my subconscious, it was really weird time.

    wow I have literaly spilled my guts!:)

    • wow i cried when i read what u wrote :( i hope everything is alright now

  35. I found this article to be helpful but also found everyone’s post interesting and somewhat helpful as well. I would also like to know more about how to distinguish what you should feel guilty about and what others are trying to make you feel guilty about.

    I have recently had a break-up with my partner (we were together for about 2.5 years) and while there is so much to the story from start to end, I am so confused and feel guilty about things and have apologized but dont think Ive expressed it well or did it when I didnt really know the full extent of what I should be apologizing for. What confuses me is that I know he has some issues himself, which he would never admit to, at least not to me, and I feel like while some of the problems we had were not all my fault I have apologized more than enough and have never heard him say anything towards an apology or admittance that everything was not my fault. The problem now….is that while going out with this person I realized I was suffering from depression and at one point tried talking to him about it only to get things thrown back on me (which to some extent I can understand his position after dealing with my behaviours and where his head must be). Regardless, we ended up breaking up and I dont know how to express what I feel any better than I did before. I feel so extremely sorry for putting him (and his family)through dealing with my depression but also feel I had to deal with some things from him and to apologize any more I just cant do…I dont want to feel I am coddling to him and I dont know how to express my sincere apology. I care for him deeply and have come to realize how much and how long he hung in there with me (which I just couldnt see because of my state of mind before). I also know, like I said before, he has his own issues and know he has to deal with them or not on his own, but I sincerely hope, wish and pray to at least make him see how deeply I appreciate him but am at a loss for words and am stopped by the fact it wont sound any different than before and that to apologize more would make me feel that everything was my fault. What does one do in this position? I am at a loss and while some days I am over it, I still find myself going back to missing him and feeling terribly guilty and ashamed.

  36. Dear folks,

    My impression after reading many of the comments from those who are still feeling guilty is this:

    if you have sincerely apologized, and/or sincerely tried to make amends, you have done the best that you can do. Please accept this fact and forgive yourself.

    For Terra, it is sad when an animal dies. However, we can not do everything… there are always limitations. You were not in a financial position to do anything different. You did the best you could within the financial constraints that you were under. Animals die despite our best efforts; it is a fact of life that must be accepted. Spending $100,000 will not change this fact of life. Please accept that you did your best and forgive yourself.

    To Heather, it is difficult to suggest anything. Your comments hint at the possibility of abuse. Only you know the truth. Please get help from an adult you trust if have been hurt emotionally, verbally or physically. Otherwise, please recognize that neither parents nor kids are perfect. We all make mistakes. Good communication between us if important. If the things you wrote were untrue, please apologize for them and start talking more with your dad. If the things you wrote were true, your dad may owe you and apology.

    To guiltyinthesouth: Right now you are punishing yourself for doing something you consider bad to someone. If you never talk to them about it, it is likely you will continue to punish yourself. The majority of crimes have a fixed time period of punishment; can you do any less for yourself? Please consider talking with them to come clean. Apologizing for what you did could be the first step you need to begin healing. It may also be the thing they need to begin healing. Do you really want to deprive them of that opportunity?

    To idunno: Your past can not be undone. However, you are under no obligation to tell the person you are interested in any of the details. You do have a responsibility to advise him of any STD’s, etc. which could affect him. Forgive yourself and begin life anew.

    To Girl: High school is over. You were a child then; now you are an adult. Face the world as an adult, apologize to your friend, face the consequences, and stop punishing yourself. As to words coming true, you seem hyper-aware of negative things and most likely are focusing on those so much that they appear to be coming true.

    To At a loss: You have apologized to him for those things you have done. You cannot make him apologize for what you believe he has done. Forgive yourself first, to start healing. Forgive him, to keep healing.

    To all and to myself: I have learned that forgiving myself is crucial for my mental health. Unless I forgive myself, I will continue to punish myself for being an imperfect human being. I have learned that forgiving the person who has hurt me does NOT mean I accept the things they did. Forgiving them is about taking away their control. When I hold a grudge. that person controls me….my every thought is about them and how they hurt me. When I forgive, I remove THEM from ME. I am back in control of myself; I have chosen to be done with them.

  37. I found this helpful, albeit much I’ve already known.

    I’ve been in a cycle of guilt for over a year now. I made the mistake of cheating on the man I loved and planned to marry during a time of emotional stress and pain. I was vulnerable and got caught in a bad situation, and immediately came clean about it, apologized profusely, and swore to him, myself, and the world that it would never happen again.

    He left me, needless to say, and I’ve told him constantly over the months how horrible I feel about it, how much I’d do anything to take it back, how it’s ruined my life (and it has), etc. He says he forgives me, but his actions speak otherwise. He barely talk to me anymore. He got with someone else not too terribly long after, and has been with her ever since. He refuses to let me talk to him about these feelings anymore, and insists our conversations stay “friendly” – ie: talk about the weather and small-talk.

    He was my best friend, lover, and the only man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. I feel horrible about what I did, and just can’t seem to get over it, although I’ve tried constantly. I wish there were some easy way to “let go.” The stakes were so high, I really struck out badly this time. :(

  38. I have so much guilt and regret. I have been tryin to get sober for over a year. Finally went to rehab and then relapsed again! Everytime I drink I hurt someone or myself. I am so scared. This last drunk, I ruined what could have been a good relationship bc I got so drunk and cussed him and idk what else. I’m lying to everyone I love because I want them to think I’m sober and ok. I sold items for drugs. I’m slowly but quickly falling hard and I just want to be sober. I will get sober for a few weeks and its like I just forget or think it will be different. I’m so ashamed for my behavior. Idk what to do.

  39. MY HEART GOES OUT TO YOU.I HAVE HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE.(I AM A ANIMAL LOVER JUST LIKE YOU ARE.)IT IS HARD TO GO THRU LIFE WITHOUT DOING SOMETHING THAT YOU FEEL GUILTY ABOUT.IT WILL GET BETTER WITH TIME.LOOK UP “GUILT” ON THE COMPUTER AND READ UP ON IT OR TRY THE BOOKSTORE.ALSO, TRY TO BALANCE THIS WITH A KINDNESS TO OTHER ANIMALS. I HAVE ADOPTED AN ABANDONED CAT AND DOG AMONG OTHER THINGS.ALSO,I AM A MEMBER OF THE HUMANE SOCIETY.E-MAIL ME IF YOU LIKE.HOPE THIS HELPS.

    • I have mixed emotions,grief, guilt and anger,are what i’m afraid might lead me to a depression.I killed my cat by trying to take it to the groomer knowing she was 16 yrs old and that it might be a trauma for her, in fact she died with a hearth attack on the way. I had never groomed her before, i was always patient,although there where days where i screamed at the mess she used to leave everywhere. This time i was determined to deal with it differently.God help me cause i can’t forgive myself,i can’t stop thinking about that cute face sleeping in the sun peacefully before putting her in the cage.She was part of the family we had her since my kids where 3yrs old and now they are 19 and they cried so much for her loss that i feel guilty about causing them so much pain.Thousands of people take their pets for grooming everyday is what i keep repeating to myself, what did i do so wrong!!!

  40. Hi,

    We loved each other ..got married without parents ‘s consent and lived seperately for a year.. I much cared about myself but the guy cared about our families..also i missed my parents very very much ..as they were not willing to talk to me… i was very hurted bcoz my parents are not talking…That ‘ s when i got conceived with his baby ..I was very happy and fell into dreams but he was not.. thats bcoz he never informed his’ family ab his marriage and also he knew my family will never come back to me..so he asked me to abort..i fought.. atlast i heeded i aborted..our relationship went bad after that ..i went away from him..but got my parents back..but he strived … loved and took care..now both the families have spoken we will have a perfect marriage soon.. i got myparents and him and evrything ..i should be happy but I am not ..the guilt of killing my baby haunts me …Everytime I see a baby ..my heart ……………….it cries like anything .. it s a mixture a\of guilt an d longing my baby ..thats depressing me and sometimes I hate my patner for his’ decision…pls help

    • The need for approval from your parents is a strong force.That must have been extreemly difficult to be assranged from your parents. I think God understands what you were going thru. God does forgive and heals. I think if you give your guilt over to Him you will begin to find peace. Mabey the pain you feel can be the motivation for helping others that have similar problems and pressures in thier life. Ihope this helps you.

  41. This article nor the comments make any statement about the feelings of guilt which arise simply as a reaction to life circumstances of which they have no control. What about survivor’s guilt. A passenger who is the only surviving person in an automobile accident often feels intense guilt, wondering why it was not them who died.

  42. This article really didn’t help me, since i feel my guilt is rational. It seems as though my younger brother hates me for all the pain i have caused him in the past. I used to be quite an azz, hated the world and took it out on the one person i love the most. He’s grown up to be such a jerk. Especially towards me. I see him abbuse his wife and daughter. I can’t help but feel that i caused him to be so angry. I’m a better person now, but i can’t change what’s already happened. Just feels like he wouldn’t be so pent up with rage if i had’nt torchered him physically/mentally for all those years. I love him so much, he is the only person i feel that really understands me. I just want him to be happy. I feel so bad for all the damage i caused. I fear that one day his anger will cause him to loose control, and end up in jail, or worse. That’s why i feel my fear is rational. I don’t know how to talk to him about it. I just wish i wasn’t so harsh all those years before. He didn’t deserve any of it.

  43. I accidentally shot my 9 year old brother when I was 8 with what I thought was a cap-gun! Im 48 now and everything in my life is as though I just pulled the trigger and realized what I’d done! Everyday!

    • dear friend, there are “sins of commission” and “sins of omission”. What you have experienced is a terrible thing. In the Bible, Cain killed his brother. It was a terrible thing. Nevertheless, God spoke to him. He refused to ask for mercy. You were in a world a fantasy, your mind was that of a child. I am sure that God forgave you because there was not malice in you. release that child in you, it needs to receive compassion. Tell that child that it did not do it on purpose. Say, god has forgiven you, and I forgive you. I don’t even know you, and I feel compassion for you. I also found a gun and I thank god that the bullet went into the wall. but I could have easily been you. but I was in a world of fantasy. Have compassion on that child in you. Set him free in Jesus name.

  44. guilt is just due to superego. it’s your internalized standards of what’s right and wrong which you learned from your parents.
    it’s possible to live without superego and guilt, with your natural internal compass of what’s best for each situation, without an external or internalized coercive agency mandating what is right and wrong and making you feel bad for not meeting that
    just look up byron brown – soul without shame

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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?

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