Guilt
Overview
 
Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

al experience that occurs when a person realizes
Understanding
Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object....

 or believes
Belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse
Remorse
Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment...

.
"Guilt" is the obligation of a person who has violated a moral standard to bear the sanctions imposed by that moral standard.
Quotations

Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation.

Henry Fielding, Amelia (novel)|Amelia (1751), Book III, chapter 11.

He declares himself guilty who justifies himself before accusation.

Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732).

They who feel guilty are afraid, and they who are afraid somehow feel guilty. To the onlooker, too, the fearful seem guilty.

Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (1954).

Where guilt is, rage and courage both abound.

Ben Jonson, Sejanus His Fall (1602).

Encyclopedia
Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

al experience that occurs when a person realizes
Understanding
Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object....

 or believes
Belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse
Remorse
Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment...

.

Moral and legal definitions

"Guilt" is the obligation of a person who has violated a moral standard to bear the sanctions imposed by that moral standard. In legal terms, guilt means having been found to have violated a criminal law, though law also raises 'the issue of defences, pleas, the mitigation of offences, and the defeasibility of claims'.

A three-fold division is sometimes made between ' objective or legal guilt, which occurs when society's laws have been broken...Social guilt...[over] an unwritten law of social expectation', and finally the way ' Personal guilt occurs when someone compromises one's own standards'.

Psychology

Guilt and its associated causes, merits and demerits are common themes in psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and psychiatry
Psychiatry
Psychiatry is the medical specialty devoted to the study and treatment of mental disorders. These mental disorders include various affective, behavioural, cognitive and perceptual abnormalities...

. Both in specialised and in ordinary language, guilt is an affective state in which one experiences conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done (or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done). It gives rise to a feeling which does not go away easily, driven by 'conscience
Conscience
Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong. Moral judgement may derive from values or norms...

'. Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 described this as the result of a struggle between the ego and the superego parental imprinting. Freud rejected the role of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 as punisher in times of illness or rewarder in time of wellness. While removing one source of guilt from patients, he described another. This was the unconscious force within the individual that contributed to illness. Freud came to consider 'the obstacle of an unconscious sense of guilt...as the most powerful of all obstacles to recovery'.

Alice Miller
Alice Miller
Alice Miller may refer to:*Alice Miller , Polish-born Swiss psychologist*Alice Miller , American golfer...

 claims that 'many people suffer all their lives from this oppressive feeling of guilt, the sense of not having lived up to their parents' expectations....stronger than any intellectual insight, no argument can overcome these guilt feelings, for they have their beginnings in life's earliest period, and from that they derive their intensity and obduracy'. This may be linked to what has been called 'the disease of false guilt....At the root of false guilt is the idea that what you feel must be true': if you feel guilty, you must be guilty!

The philosopher Martin Buber
Martin Buber
Martin Buber was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a form of religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship....

 underlined the difference between the Freudian
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 notion of guilt, based on internal conflicts, and existential guilt, based on actual harm done to others.

Guilt is often associated with depression
Depression (mood)
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless...

, and sometimes anxiety
Anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

. In mania
Mania
Mania, the presence of which is a criterion for certain psychiatric diagnoses, is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression...

, the patient succeeds in applying to guilt 'the defense mechanism of denial by overcompensation...re-enacts being a person without guilt feelings'.

Defences

'The mastery of guilt feelings may become the all-consuming task of a person's whole life..."counter-guilt"'. Various techniques are possible, including repression
Psychological repression
Psychological repression, also psychic repression or simply repression, is the psychological attempt by an individual to repel one's own desires and impulses towards pleasurable instincts by excluding the desire from one's consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious...

. Freud pointed out that 'as a rule the ego carries out repressions in the service and at the behest of its superego; but this is a case in which it has turned the same weapon against its harsh taskmaster'. The problem is that, 'since the latter is a jealous master whose punishments are difficult to avoid', one may (in a return of the repressed) 'begin to feel guilty many years afterwards and perhaps break down...under the long-continued reproaches of the Superego'.

Projection
Psychological projection
Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people...

 is another defensive tool with wide applications. It may take the form of blaming the victim: The victim of someone else's accident or bad luck may be offered criticism, the theory being that the victim may be at fault for having attracted the other person's hostility. Alternatively, 'the superego is reprojected onto external objects for the purpose of getting rid of guilt feelings...using external objects as "witnesses" in the fight against the superego'. Here the danger is of creating ideas of reference; of 'beginning to feel that everybody's judging me, that you're judging me, that, by yawning, you judge me, by being restless, you judge me...a very nice, juicy paranoia'.

Lack of guilt of psychopaths

Psychopaths
Psychopathy
Psychopathy is a mental disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy and remorse, shallow emotions, egocentricity, and deceptiveness. Psychopaths are highly prone to antisocial behavior and abusive treatment of others, and are very disproportionately responsible for violent crime...

 lack any true sense of guilt or remorse
Remorse
Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment...

 for harm they may have caused to others. Instead, they rationalize
Rationalization (psychology)
In psychology and logic, rationalization is an unconscious defense mechanism in which perceived controversial behaviors or feelings are logically justified and explained in a rational or logical manner in order to avoid any true explanation and made consciously tolerable by plausible means...

 their behavior, blame
Blame
Blame is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong their action is blameworthy...

 someone else, or deny
Denial
Denial is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.The subject may use:* simple denial: deny the reality of the...

 it outright. This is seen by psychologists as part of a lack of moral reasoning (in comparison with the majority of humans), an inability to evaluate situations in a moral framework, and an inability to develop emotional bonds with other people.

Also known as sociopathy or antisocial personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder is described by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition , as an Axis II personality disorder characterized by "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood...

, this 'type of behaviour disorder in the past was called "moral insanity" or "moral imbecility"'.

Evolutionary theories

Some evolutionary psychologists theorize that guilt and shame helped maintain beneficial relationships, such as reciprocal altruism
Reciprocal altruism
In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time...

. If a person feels guilty when he harms another, or even fails to reciprocate kindness, he is more likely not to harm others or become too selfish. In this way, he reduces the chances of retaliation by members of his tribe, and thereby increases his survival prospects, and those of the tribe or group. As with any other emotion, guilt can be manipulated
Psychological manipulation
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative,...

 to control or influence others. As a highly social animal living in large groups that are relatively stable, we need ways to deal with conflicts and events in which we inadvertently or purposefully harm others. If someone causes harm to another, and then feels guilt and demonstrates regret and sorrow, the person harmed is likely to forgive. Thus, guilt makes it possible to forgive, and helps hold the social group together.

Social psychology theories

When we see another person suffering, it can also cause us pain. This constitutes our powerful system of empathy, which leads to our thinking that we should do something to relieve the suffering of others. If we cannot help another, or fail in our efforts, we experience feelings of guilt. From the perspective of group selection, groups that are made up of a high percent of co-operators outdo groups with a low percent of co-operators in between-group competition. People who are more prone to high levels of empathy-based guilt may be likely to suffer from anxiety and depression; however, they are also more likely to cooperate and behave altruistically. This suggests that guilt-proneness may not always be beneficial at the level of the individual, or within-group competition, but highly beneficial in between-group competition.

Other theories

Another common notion is that guilt is assigned by social processes, such as a jury trial
Jury trial
A jury trial is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact which are then applied by a judge...

; i. e., that it is a strictly legal concept. Thus, the ruling of a jury that O.J. Simpson or Julius Rosenberg was "guilty" or "not innocent" is taken as an actual judgment by the whole society that they must act as if they were so. By corollary, the ruling that such a person is "not guilty" may not be so taken, due to the asymmetry in the assumption that one is assumed innocent until proven guilty
Presumption of innocence
The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty. Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognised in many...

, and prefers to take the risk
Risk
Risk is the potential that a chosen action or activity will lead to a loss . The notion implies that a choice having an influence on the outcome exists . Potential losses themselves may also be called "risks"...

 of freeing a guilty party over convicting innocents. Still others—often, but not always, theists of one type or another—believe that the origin of guilt comes from violating universal principles of right and wrong. In most instances, people who believe this also acknowledge that even though there is proper guilt from doing 'wrong' instead of doing 'right,' people endure all sorts of guilty feelings which do not stem from violating universal moral principles.

Collective guilt

Collective guilt (or group guilt) is the unpleasant and often emotional reaction that results among a group of individuals when it is perceived that the group illegitimately harmed members of another group. It is often the result of “sharing a social identity with others whose actions represent a threat to the positivity of that identity”. Different intergroup inequalities can result in collective guilt, such as receiving unearned benefits and privileges or inflicting more extreme forms of harm on an out-group (including genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

). Individuals are generally motivated to avoid collective guilt in order to maintain a positive social identity. There are many ways of decreasing collective guilt, such as denying harm or justifying actions. Collective guilt can also lead to positive outcomes, such as promoting intergroup reconciliation and reducing negative attitudes towards the out-group.

There are several causes of collective guilt: salient group identity, collective responsibility, and perception of unjust in-group actions. In order for an individual to experience collective guilt, he must identify himself as a part of the in-group. “This produces a perceptual shift from thinking of oneself in terms of ‘I’ and ‘me’ to ‘us’ or ‘we’.” Only when an individual is salient with the in-group can they perceive responsibility for the harmful actions of the group, past and present. In addition to in-group salience, an individual will only feel collective guilt if they view the in-group as responsible for the harmful actions done to the out-group. For instance, in two studies by the American Mosaic Project, racial inequality in the US was framed as either “Black Disadvantage” or “White Privilege”. When the term “black disadvantage” was used to describe racial inequality, white participants felt less collectively responsible for the harm done to the out-group, which lessened collective guilt. In comparison, when “white privilege” was used, white participants felt more collectively responsible for the harm done, which increased collective guilt.

Lastly, an individual has to believe the actions caused by the in-group were unjustifiable, indefensible and unforgivable. If an individual can justify the actions of the in-group, this will lessen collective guilt. Only when an individual views the in-group actions as reprehensible will that individual feel collective guilt. Collective guilt is not only a result of feeling empathy
Empathy
Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion. The English word was coined in 1909 by E.B...

 for the out-group. It can also be caused by self-conscious emotion that stems from the questioning of the morality of the in-group.

There are various methods of reducing collective guilt. Some of these methods are denying the in-group’s harmful actions, denying responsibility
Moral responsibility
Moral responsibility usually refers to the idea that a person has moral obligations in certain situations. Disobeying moral obligations, then, becomes grounds for justified punishment. Deciding what justifies punishment, if anything, is a principle concern of ethics.People who have moral...

, claiming actions by in-group were just, focusing on positive aspects caused by the harmful action, and pointing out positive things in other areas to counterbalance the harm. First, by denying the in-group’s harmful actions, or downplaying the severity of the harm, the effect of collective guilt is lessened. If the individual or group can neglect to observe the harm caused by their actions, either consciously or unconsciously, then the individual will not feel collective guilt. If a person does not feel that the in-group is responsible for the harm caused by actions, collective guilt will be lessened. Additionally, if a person believes that only individuals are responsible for their own actions, and not a collective group, than they can deny the existence of collective responsibility, thereby reducing feelings of collective guilt. An individual can rationalize the actions of the in-group. If the individual believes that there were just reasons for the harm inflicted, collective guilt is likely to be reduced. For instance, out-group dehumanization is one effective means towards justifying the in-group’s actions. By focusing on the positive aspects of the in-group’s actions rather than the harmful effects, collective guilt can be reduced. For instance, an individual or group may choose to focus on the benefits of high levels of production and consumption, rather than on its harmful effects on the environment.

Cultural views

Traditional Japanese society
Culture of Japan
The culture of Japan has evolved greatly over the millennia, from the country's prehistoric Jōmon period to its contemporary hybrid culture, which combines influences from Asia, Europe and North America...

, Korean society and Ancient Greek society
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 are sometimes said to be "shame
Shame
Shame is, variously, an affect, emotion, cognition, state, or condition. The roots of the word shame are thought to derive from an older word meaning to cover; as such, covering oneself, literally or figuratively, is a natural expression of shame....

-based" rather than "guilt-based", in that the social consequences of "getting caught" are seen as more important than the individual feelings or experiences of the agent (see the work of Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict was an American anthropologist, cultural relativist, and folklorist....

). This may lead to more of a focus on etiquette
Etiquette
Etiquette is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group...

 than on ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 as understood in Western civilization. This has led some in Western civilizations to question why the word ethos
Ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of...

was adapted from Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 with such vast differences in cultural norms. Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 and Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 inherit most notions of guilt from Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, Persian and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 ideas, mostly as interpreted through Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, who adapted Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's ideas to Christianity. The Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word for guilt is culpa, a word sometimes seen in law literature, for instance in mea culpa meaning "my fault (guilt)".

Etymology

Guilt, from O.E. gylt "crime, sin, fault, fine," of unknown origin, though some suspect a connection to O.E. gieldan "to pay for, debt," but O.E.D. editors find this "inadmissible phonologically". The mistaken use for "sense of guilt" is first recorded 1690. "Guilt by association" is first recorded in 1941. "Guilty" is from O.E. gyltig, from gylt.

In literature

Guilt is a main theme in John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

's East of Eden, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky was a Russian writer of novels, short stories and essays. He is best known for his novels Crime and Punishment, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov....

's Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. This is the second of Dostoyevsky's full-length novels following his...

, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire (play)
A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1947 play written by American playwright Tennessee Williams for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1948. The play opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947, and closed on December 17, 1949, in the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Broadway production was...

, William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

's play Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

's "The Tell-Tale Heart
The Tell-Tale Heart
"The Tell-Tale Heart" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It follows an unnamed narrator who insists on his sanity after murdering an old man with a "vulture eye". The murder is carefully calculated, and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the...

" and "The Black Cat
The Black Cat (short story)
"The Black Cat" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the August 19, 1843, edition of The Saturday Evening Post. It is a study of the psychology of guilt, often paired in analysis with Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"...

", and many other works of literature. It is a major theme in many works by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

, and is an almost universal concern of novelists who explore inner life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 and secrets.

In the Bible

Guilt in the Christian Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 is not merely an emotional state but is a legal state of deserving punishment. The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 does not have a unique word for guilt, but uses a single word to signify: "sin, the guilt of it, the punishment due unto it, and a sacrifice for it". The Greek New Testament uses a word for guilt that means "standing exposed to judgment for sin" (e.g. Romans 3:19). In the Old Testament the Bible says that through sacrifice one's sins can be forgiven. The New Testament says that sin will be forgiven by the acceptance of Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Saviour (John 3:16). Accordingly, the old and new testaments have differing opinions on the expiation of guilt. It is also theoretically possible to fulfill conditions of both biblical guilt escape methods (A: pay a sacrifice for one's sins, and B: accept Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Saviour), yet still to be unable to let go of guilt, arguably because of failure at self-forgiveness.

Remedies

Guilt can sometimes be remedied by: punishment
Punishment
Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group....

 (a common action and advised or required in many legal
Legal code
A legal code is a body of law written by a governmental body, such as a U.S. state, a Canadian Province or German Bundesland or a municipality...

 and moral codes); forgiveness
Forgiveness
Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all...

 (as in transformative justice
Transformative justice
Transformative justice is a general philosophical strategy for responding to conflicts. It takes the principles and practices of restorative justice beyond the criminal justice system. It applies to areas such as environmental law, corporate law, labor-management relations, consumer bankruptcy and...

); making amends (see reparation (legal)
Reparation (legal)
In jurisprudence, reparation is replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim. Monetary restitution is a common form of reparation...

 or acts of reparation
Acts of reparation
In the Roman Catholic tradition, an Act of Reparation is a prayer or devotion with the intent to repair the "sins of others", e.g. for the repair of the sin of blasphemy, the sufferings of Jesus Christ or as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary...

), or 'restitution...an important step in finding freedom from real guilt'; or by sincere remorse
Remorse
Remorse is an emotional expression of personal regret felt by a person after he or she has committed an act which they deem to be shameful, hurtful, or violent. Remorse is closely allied to guilt and self-directed resentment...

 (as with confession
Confession
This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

 in Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 or restorative justice
Restorative justice
Restorative justice is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims, offenders, as well as the involved community, instead of satisfying abstract legal principles or punishing the offender...

). Guilt can also be remedied through intellectualisation or cognition (the understanding that the source of the guilty feelings was illogical or irrelevant). Helping other people can also help relieve guilt feelings: 'thus guilty people are often helpful people...helping, like receiving an external reward, seemed to get people feeling better'. There are also the so-called 'Don Juan
Don Juan
Don Juan is a legendary, fictional libertine whose story has been told many times by many authors. El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra by Tirso de Molina is a play set in the fourteenth century that was published in Spain around 1630...

s of achievement...who pay the installments due their superego not by suffering but by achievements....Since no achievement succeeds in really undoing the unconscious guilt, these persons are compelled to run from one achievement to another'.

Law does not usually accept the agent's self-punishment, but some ancient codes did: in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, the accused could propose their own remedy, which could, in fact, be a reward, while the accuser
Accuser
The word Accuser can mean:-*Someone who accuses* Satan, whose name means "accuser" in Hebrew.*The Accusers, a crime novel*The Accuser, an animated series* An Accuser from Middle Eastern mythology....

 proposed another, and the jury
Jury
A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt, or lack thereof, in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty,...

 chose something in-between. This forced the accused to effectively bet on his support in the community, as Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 did when he proposed "room and board in the town hall" as his fate. He lost, and drank hemlock
Conium
Conium is a genus of two species of highly poisonous perennial herbaceous flowering plants in the family Apiaceae, native to Europe and the Mediterranean region as Conium maculatum, and to southern Africa as Conium chaerophylloides....

, a poison
Poison
In the context of biology, poisons are substances that can cause disturbances to organisms, usually by chemical reaction or other activity on the molecular scale, when a sufficient quantity is absorbed by an organism....

, as advised by his accuser.

Finally, although the research has not been done, guilt (like many other emotions) can sometimes wear out and be forgotten in the passage of time. Italian Mothers know about Guilt.

See also

Further reading

by Gary Gilley  by Gerd Altendorff translation by Jochen Reiss

External links

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