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Guilt vs. Remorse: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 24, 2023
Guilt is the awareness of having done wrong, while remorse involves regret and a deep sense of sorrow for the wrongdoing.

Key Differences

Guilt is an emotional response to one's actions being at odds with moral or societal standards, while remorse involves a deeper emotional state of regret over the harm caused.
Guilt is often the initial feeling when recognizing a wrongdoing, primarily focusing on the action itself. Remorse, on the other hand, includes a broader emotional response, empathizing with the pain or harm caused to others.
Guilt can exist without remorse, as one may feel guilty yet not necessarily feel sincere regret or a desire to make amends. In contrast, remorse typically implies a desire to repair the harm done and a commitment to change behavior.
Guilt is more self-focused, often associated with feelings of shame and embarrassment, while remorse extends beyond the self, reflecting a compassionate concern for those affected by the wrongdoing.
Guilt can be transient and may not lead to behavioral change, whereas remorse is usually more enduring and is often a catalyst for personal growth and positive change.

Comparison Chart


On the wrongful act itself
On the impact of the act on others


Cognitive recognition of wrongdoing
Emotional response with empathy

Associated Feelings

Shame, embarrassment
Sorrow, regret

Behavioral Implications

May not lead to change
Often leads to a desire to make amends


Can be short-lived
Tends to be more enduring

Guilt and Remorse Definitions


The fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.
He admitted his guilt in the court hearing.


Deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed.
She expressed her deep remorse for her actions.


A feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation.
She felt a deep guilt for not helping her friend.


A feeling of sadness and being sorry for something you have done.
He felt a strong sense of remorse after yelling at his child.


A remorseful awareness of having done something wrong.
He carried a sense of guilt about his past mistakes.


A gnawing distress arising from a sense of guilt for past wrongs.
She was filled with remorse for not visiting her sick mother.


The state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously.
They proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Pained regret for an action.
He had a sincere remorse for his disrespectful behavior.


Responsibility for a crime or for doing something bad or wrong.
His guilt in the matter was undeniable.


Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds.
His remorse was evident in his tearful apology.


The fact of being responsible for the commission of an offense; moral culpability
The investigation uncovered the suspect's guilt.


Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret.


(Law) The fact of having been found to have violated a criminal law; legal culpability
The jury's job is to determine the defendant's guilt or innocence.


(Obsolete) Compassion.


A feeling of regret or sadness for doing wrong or sinning.


(obsolete) Sorrow; pity; compassion.


The anguish, like gnawing pain, excited by a sense of guilt; compunction of conscience for a crime committed, or for the sins of one's past life.


Sympathetic sorrow; pity; compassion.
Curse on the unpardoning prince, whom tears can drawTo no remorse.
But evermore it seem'd an easier thingAt once without remorse to strike her dead.


A feeling of deep regret (usually for some misdeed)


What is guilt?

Guilt is the awareness or recognition of having done something wrong.

Is guilt a necessary condition for remorse?

Typically, remorse arises from a feeling of guilt, but the depth of emotional response differs.

Can guilt be constructive?

Yes, guilt can sometimes motivate positive change or corrective actions.

How do individuals express remorse?

Remorse is often expressed through apologies, reparations, and changed behavior.

Can a person feel guilt without remorse?

Yes, it's possible to feel guilty without experiencing the deeper emotional response of remorse.

Does remorse require empathy?

Yes, remorse typically involves empathizing with those harmed by one's actions.

Are guilt and remorse only related to negative actions?

Generally, they relate to actions perceived as wrong or harmful.

How do psychology and therapy address guilt and remorse?

Psychology and therapy help individuals understand, process, and resolve these feelings in a healthy way.

Does remorse always follow guilt?

Not necessarily; remorse involves a deeper, empathetic response which may not always follow guilt.

Is remorse a long-lasting feeling?

Remorse can be more enduring, reflecting ongoing regret and a commitment to change.

How is remorse defined?

Remorse involves deep regret and sorrow for one's wrongdoing.

How do guilt and remorse affect behavior?

Guilt can lead to feelings of shame, while remorse often leads to a desire to make amends and change behavior.

Is remorse a universal emotion?

While remorse is common, its expression and intensity can vary across different cultures and individuals.

Is it possible to overcome feelings of guilt and remorse?

Yes, through self-reflection, forgiveness, and making amends, individuals can overcome these feelings.

Does guilt always relate to ethical or moral wrongdoing?

Mostly, but individuals can also feel guilt about actions that contradict personal standards.

Can a person experience guilt for unintentional actions?

Yes, individuals can feel guilt even for actions that were unintentional.

Can guilt exist without causing distress?

Guilt often causes distress, but the intensity can vary widely among individuals.

Can societal norms influence feelings of guilt?

Yes, societal and cultural norms can heavily influence what is perceived as guilt-worthy.

How do children develop the concept of guilt?

Children develop guilt as they learn societal norms and the consequences of their actions.

Can remorse lead to positive outcomes?

Yes, remorse can lead to positive outcomes like personal growth and improved relationships.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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