Monday, November 16, 2009

Regret vs. Guilt

  /rɪˈgrɛt/ [ri-gret] -gret⋅ted, -gret⋅ting, noun
–verb (used with object)
1. to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.): He no sooner spoke than he regretted it.
2. to think of with a sense of loss: to regret one's vanished youth.
3. a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.
4. a feeling of sorrow or remorse for a fault, act, loss, disappointment, etc.
5. regrets, a polite, usually formal refusal of an invitation: I sent her my regrets.
6. a note expressing regret at one's inability to accept an invitation: I have had four acceptances and one regret.

  /gɪlt/ [gilt]
1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.
2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

A lot of people regret things that they have done in their lives. I have always been a bit proud that I am not regretful. The things that I have done have made me who I am.

On the other hand, I feel guilty about everything. Seriously. I carry so much guilt around it's hard to stand sometimes.

How does regret compare to guilt?

Firstly, with a quick look, guilt is way more serious. Sally regrets giving Sarah that last drink. Sally feels guilty about letting Sarah drive home drunk.

They are both feelings of remorse (deep and painful regret for wrongdoing; compunction).

Side note: Don't you hate it when you are trying to figure out the meaning of a word just to have the definitions circle around one another?

Regret is remorse for an act or fault. Guilt is remorse for a crime or offense. Geez.

I think the most important part of either of these definitions is that guilt is for something either real or imagined. Regrets are real. Ben called Lucy a bitch and regrets it. Lucy got angry, stormed out the door and got hit by a bus. Now Ben feels guilty about Lucy getting hit by the bus. Ben wasn't driving the bus. Calling Lucy a bitch did not cause her hospitalization.

Who knows, maybe Ben is better off.

What is my conclusion? I suppose it would be healthier to be regretful than guilt ridden. Especially for things out of your (my) control. I don't know if anyone else learned anything in the past couple of minutes (assuming you are a slow reader) but I did. I can't say that it will help or change anything, but I certainly learned something.


  1. Raine, you are so sweet. Gave you a shout out at my blog...

  2. I never realized until reading your blog, I do the same thing, I regret nothing...but feel guilty over everything...guilt is an ugly ghost.

  3. Love this post. Guilt is an awful thing, I wish there was some magic way to just "let it go". Glad you posted though, I was wondering where you were!

  4. Holy Shit! It's like you climbing into my head and are reading from a script I wrote yesterday!
    I too have never felt regret - every tiny minutia or decision thus far has helped mold who we are as individuals.
    And guilt. Wow. Ain't she a jealous bitch. I feel guilty about everything regarding my daughter. It's second-hand psuedo Caltholic guilt...


  5. I think that guilt is an ego driven emotion.
    Regret is soul inspired.
    When we feel guilty it is because we are concerned about what other people will think and judge. It allows us to stay small and not have to answer to ourselves. It is self betrayal. Guilt allows us to not really listen to our intuition. It keeps us in our comfort zones.
    Regret is more personal and internal. It is done inside the body, mind and soul. Introspection and doing better the next time or actually fixing what we did wrong. Listening to our intuition, what we really feel about something and following those values thru.


Whatcha think?