Dealing with Regret
While we may view guilt as a useless waste of energy, there are some important related emotional states that can be confused with guilt. Guilt results from doing something that we knew was wrong at the time. Regret comes from learning later that we made an unwise choice. Understanding this difference allows us move beyond blaming ourselves for what we didn't know or weren't able to do. Still another feeling close to guilt is remorse - a genuine variation of sadness. Remorse is a healthy human response to the recognition of our responsibility for something that has been harmful or hurtful to ourselves or others. A drunk driver who kills a pedestrian may rightly feel remorse for such behavior, as difficult as this is to face. We feel true remorse when we acknowledge that our self-serving actions have caused pain to someone else - for example, when we have lied, or when we denied our loyalty to a friend. Feeling our remorse - without drowning in self-recrimination - is necessary if we are to grow as honest human beings. It hurts to face up to ourselves at times, and that's OK.