On Guilt

Guilt is absurd to deal with. Like an onion, the layers manifest themselves with the promise of more weeping and sniffing. But how guilty should you feel?

Should you feel guilty if you are actually powerless in a situation? Should you feel guilty if you hurt someone for self preservation? Does guilt dull it’s edges with time or forgiveness? Is it actually possible to forgive oneself?

And what of the fuzzy lines that divide guilt and regret? Does regret validate guilt?

But there are things that you regret that you wouldn’t change anyway. So the guilt continues. Like an onion it is pungent. But onions go well with tomatoes. I am not sure guilt does.

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24 Responses to On Guilt

  1. Shefaly says:

    Guilt is a burden on one’s soul. Guilt is a waste of time, unless it arises from genuine malintent having driven an act and if it precipitates change. Everyone should save some forgiveness for him/herself.



  2. rads says:

    guilt am sure goes well with w(h)ine and cheese 🙂

    jokes apart, I’d take remorse for pain inflicted despite intent over guilt. Say sorry and see if one can fix it. The pained in a decent frame of mind, will accept that to the person staying away.
    I know I will. Am still waiting for that assurance for something done last year this time.


    • Thing is – when you don’t want to fix it. And I think for me guilt is far sharper in those cases – when I don’t even bring myself to repair what can be repaired – because I am not all that sure about which status is better…


  3. mg says:

    Congratulations on the graduation. You should stop peeling those onions asap.


  4. Karthik says:

    Stop poking yourself with a guild-edged sword!

    Please put some context.


  5. Sowmya says:

    Hi Neha,

    You have a wonderful blog. I do not want to assume anything, but I am sorry – the post was LOL.


  6. @shwin says:

    Guilt goes very well with tomatoes…..the squashed chutney variety even better…..and no one is powerless in a situation where one is a part of the events leading up to and after the incident…..we just choose to think of ourselves as powerless as an excuse for the guilt we feel…..

    How else can you rationalize hurting someone else for self preservation…hereditary selfishness? experimenting with psychological zero-sum games?……No, there can be no ration explanation as to why we do the things we do to the ones we love….

    You can only forgive yourself when someone else forgives you….after all we forgive oneself unconsciously while committing the act of hurting someone…else we would never be capable of committing it.

    So who are you Nurse Ratched or Randle?


    • Perhaps forgiveness is rather complicated. What I should ideally aim for is forgetfulness. Afterall, the act of forgiving acknowledges the act that caused the guilt far more than forgetting it altogether.

      As for explanations, other than the rational kind, are there any at all? if something isn’t rational – why bother “explaining” it. You’d just state it anyway.


  7. Nilu says:

    Guilt is of what one is found. Regret, is what one proclaims.

    The difference, apart from perspective, is also one of time. Between trial and parole.


  8. Ankur says:

    If the state of affairs that cause lasting guilt persist over time, then the implication is that the regret is not strong enough to try and bring about a change if one is capable of doing so. In this case, the motivation to persist with the status quo is sufficient, and the resulting guilt merely embeds the status quo in stone, for the conscience soothes itself by saying that at least the guilt is there, if not the action that will bring about change. However, if there is certainty that one is powerless to act upon the regret, then the guilt becomes a sort of cleansing process, ideally leading to self-forgiveness. Ideally…vanity says.


  9. km says:

    Onions go well with tomatoes.

    If ever there was a non sequitur…:)


  10. Grasshopper says:

    Guilt is a depressing emotion that gets lodged into our cells, it is in fact deeply embedded in our dna itself.
    There are only two ways of getting rid of guilt.
    One, is to get enlightened.
    Second is to get Amnesia.


  11. inbavalli says:

    I think (since we are into onionese) guilt is the inner most layer, closest to our hearts, while regret is one of the outer layers. Somewhat like pain and discomfort.


    • Oh! I like. So what is at the centre of this onion.. what if there is nothing but another layer after one layer anyway? How long before we tired of peeling. (Why do I get the feeling that the onion analogy should have been dropped way back!)


  12. DR says:

    Me and my heart have issues……dont know if I should hate you or miss you……!!!!Lines from a song I remembered after reading this post…

    I really like tomatoes and onions….and masala….and chicken….and ……what else is on the menu?


  13. Kitchu says:

    Just eat it!


  14. dipali says:

    Swallow it, with or without tomatoes, and move on till the next bout.
    It seems to be an integral part of the human condition.


  15. Partisan says:

    Reminds me of this bit from the film, “Broadway Danny Roae”:

    Woody Allen and Mia Farrow are on the run, with the Mob in hot pursuit.

    WA: Don’t you feel guilty about any of this?

    Mia: No.

    WA: How could you not? I feel guilty all the time. My Rabbi says that we are all guilty in the eyes of God.

    Mia: So, you believe in God?

    WA: NO! but I feel guilty about that!


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