Difference Between Guilt and Remorse

Guilt vs Remorse

Guilt and remorse are two words that are used interchangeably by most people as they are quite alike when actually there is a difference between them in the meaning. So, one has to bear in mind that guilt and remorse are not synonymous. They are related but are two different emotions. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, guilt is a feeling of having done something wrong. Remorse, on the other hand, is a deep regret for a wrong committed. When paying attention to the definitions, one may realize that they are almost identical, but there is a significant difference. Guilt is the acceptance of the fact that one you have done someone wrong, but remorse is not only the realization but also regret and the need to make things better. Through this article let us examine the difference between guilt and remorse while gaining an understanding about each word.

What is Guilt?

Guilt can be defined as a feeling of having done something wrong. As human beings at some point or the other, our actions can have negative effects on others. This can be a conscious process or even an unconscious process. Imagine a situation where you realize that your actions were unfair to another, or hurtful. This realization that it was not fair by another and the idea that you had wronged another is guilt.

For example, imagine a situation where one partner betrays another. The person who betrayed the other would feel bad for the action he committed and feel guilty.

The main characteristic in guilt is that the focus is on the individual himself more than on the one who has been wronged. The individual feels bad for committing that particular action because it pains and damages his self-image. This is why a guilty person can be destructive. It is his image that has been shattered, and he feels angry towards the one who was wronged.

Difference Between Guilt and Remorse

Guilty person focuses on his or her self-image

What is Remorse?

Remorse can be defined as deep regret for a wrong committed. It is quite different from guilt because the focus is on the individual who was wronged. If an individual harms another but realizes that his action was negative and wishes to better the situation, then this is remorse. Unlike in the case of guilt, where the person would acknowledge the wrong for the sake of his self-image, in remorse the person would concentrate more on the one who was wronged. In remorse, the individual genuinely cares for the other and takes steps towards correcting his mistake.

For example, you shout at a family member for the smallest mistake because you were tensed. Later on, you realize that you have hurt the other and felt the need to correct your mistake. You actively engage in a process to make the other person feel better.

Here the concentration is solely on the one who was hurt. In Psychology, psychologists believe that a psychopath can feel guilt and accept one’s guilt but fails to feel remorse for his actions. This is the main difference between remorse and guilt.

 Guilt vs Remorse

Remorseful person focuses on the one who got hurt

What is the difference between Guilt and Remorse?

• Definition of Guilt and Remorse:

• Guilt is a feeling of having done something wrong.

• Remorse is a deep regret for a wrong committed.

• Destructive or Constructive:

• Guilt is destructive as the individual engages in self-pity.

• Remorse is constructive as it allows the person to make amends and also learn to forgive his mistakes.

• Focus:

• In guilt, the focus is on the self-image of the individual who had committed the wrong act.

• In remorse, the focus is on the one who was wronged.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Guilt by Evil Erin (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Wiping tears via Wikicommons (Public Domain)