Guilt is the state of being responsible for the commission of an offense. It is also a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse.
- It is quite gratifying to feel guilty if you haven't done anything wrong: how noble! Whereas it is rather hard and certainly depressing to admit guilt and to repent. The youth of Germany is surrounded, on all sides and in all walks of life, by men in positions of authority and in public office who are very guilty indeed but who feel nothing of the sort. The normal reaction to this state of affairs should be indignation, but indignation would be quite risky—not a danger to life and limb but definitely a handicap in a career. Those young German men and women who every once in a while—on the occasion of all the Diary of Anne Frank hubbub and of the Eichmann trial—treat us to hysterical outbursts of guilt feelings are not staggering under the burden of the past, their fathers' guilt; rather they are trying to escape from the pressure of very present and actual problems into a cheap sentimentality.
- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), Ch. XV.
- [O]nly in a metaphorical sense can one say he feels guilty for what not he but his father or his people have done. (Morally speaking, it is hardly less wrong to feel guilty without having done something specific than it is to feel free of all guilt if one is actually guilty of something.)
- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), Postscript to the revised (1965) edition.
- It is the older generation who foster in a child an early and most unnecessary sense of guilt, of sinfulness and of wrongdoing. So much emphasis is laid upon petty little things that are not really wrong, but are annoying to the parent or teacher, that a true sense of wrong (which is the recognition of failure to preserve right relations with the group) gets overlaid and is not recognized for what it is. The many small and petty sins, imposed upon the children by the constant reiteration of "No", by the use of the word "naughty", and based largely on parental failure to understand and occupy the child, are of no real moment. If these aspects of the child's life are rightly handled, then the truly wrong things, the infringements upon the rights of others, . . . the hurting or damaging of others in order to achieve personal gain, will emerge in right perspective and at the right time.
- Alice Bailey Education in the New Age (1954)
- Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than a repenting cult. ... An enormous feeling of guilt not itself knowing how to repent, grasps at the cult, not in order to repent for this guilt, but to make it universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself in this guilt.
- Walter Benjamin, "Capitalism as Religion" (1921), Translated by Chad Kautzer in The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Thinkers (2005), p. 259
- The soul must accept guilt in order to destroy existing evil, lest it incur the greater guilt of idyllic withdrawal, of seeming to be good by putting up with wrong.
- Ernst Bloch, Man on His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (1959/1970), p. 36
- Guilt. It's this mechanism we use to control people. It's an illusion. It's a kind of social control mechanism and it's very unhealthy. It does terrible things to our body.
- Ted Bundy, quoted in Michaud, Stephen; Aynesworth, Hugh The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy (1999) pg. 320
- Guilt is the result of fear. The fundamental situation that creates fear also creates guilt. The fear is that you have sinned. It is the result of wrong teaching by the Christian groups for 2,000 years, which has instilled fear and guilt into 1,000 million Christian people. In every incarnation they meet the same thing – fear instilling guilt and guilt instilling fear, and the terrible effect on the sense of self-esteem that such teaching has. That, together with countless and age-old superstitions that fill the minds of people of other religious traditions, makes fear and guilt a powerful blockage on the way to awakening consciousness.
- The way to remove fear and guilt is to practise the three techniques that Maitreya suggests. Instill, acquire, build into yourself honesty of mind, sincerity of spirit, and detachment. If done assiduously, correctly, these inevitably build the detachment in which fear and guilt disappear.
- Benjamin Creme, Removal of Guilt, Share International magazine (March 2007)
- People are guilty for no reason at all. They are guilty because they are too serious, or because they take on other people’s problems, other people’s hate, other people’s lack of love, or whatever it happens to be. People feel guilty, especially children. Children whose families break up, their father and mother divorce, often feel personally to blame for the break-up of their parents, so traumatic is it for them. They think they did not love their parents enough, or they were not ‘good’, or they did ‘wrong things’. It is absolutely nothing to do with the child at all, of course. It is the sensitivity of a child not to blame their father or mother but to blame themselves for the fact that the father and mother no longer live together. That is related to self-forgiveness.
People will not forgive themselves because they attach themselves to the result of their actions. You cannot alter the past. The past is the past. What you can alter is your attachment to the past.
- Where your attachment is fixed on your action or non-action in relation to a dead person, for instance — you did not look after them enough, or were not kind to them, or whatever — then you feel guilty. They die and you feel guilty that you were not nicer and more kind. There is nothing you can do about it. Perhaps it was not even true, but that is the feeling you have because they have died. You can no longer say to them what you might easily have said that would have made their life feel better. If you attach yourself to that, you attach yourself to the guilt. You can go on blaming yourself for years, for not doing what you feel you might have done for this person. That is attachment, a negative thing. The attachment is holding back some part of your energy and attention. Your psyche is fixed there where it should be free. You are no longer free if you are attached even to something where you feel, “But I should have done …” Maybe you should have, but you cannot change it now that the situation is changed. You have to learn to give up the past, let it be, move on. Do not hold on and attach yourself to something that you cannot redress. It is gone.
- Benjamin Creme, The World Teacher for All Humanity, (2007)
- In England a man is presoomed to be innocent till he's proved guilty an' they take it f 'r granted he's guilty. In this counthry a man is presoomed to be guilty ontil he's proved guilty an' afther that he's presoomed to be innocent.
- Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley's opinions (1901), p. 212.
- No disease of the imagination is so difficult to cure, as that which is complicated with the dread of guilt: fancy and conscience then act interchangeably upon us, and so often shift their places, that the illusions of one are not distinguished from the dictates of the other.
- E. M. Forster, Commonplace Book, p. 76.
- He declares himself guilty who justifies himself before accusation.
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia (1732).
- That deed which in our guilt we today call weakness, will appear tomorrow as an essential link in the complete chain of Man.
- Khalil Gibran, The Voice of the Master (trans. Anthony R. Ferris, 1958), p. 32.
- To be judged by the state as an innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.
- Chris Hedges, “Happy as a Hangman,” truthdig.com, December 6, 2010.
- 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).
- It is said to have happened that a man who by his misdeeds became liable to punishment under the law returned to society a reformed man after having served his sentence. Then he went to a foreign country where he was unknown and where he became known for his upright conduct. All was forgotten; then came a fugitive who recognized the esteemed man as his peer back in those wretched days. To meet was an appalling recollection; to shudder at it in passing was a deadly anxiety. Even silent, it shouted with a loud voice, until it became vocal in that dastardly fugitive’s voice. Then despair suddenly seized the man who seemed redeemed, and it seized him just because repentance was forgotten, because this civically reformed man was still not surrendered to God in such a way that in the humility of repentance he remembered his former condition. In the temporal and sensuous and civic sense, repentance is still also something that comes and goes over the years, but in the eternal sense it is a quiet daily concern.
- Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, 1846, Hong p. 17-18.
- These false pretexts and varnished colours failing,
Rare in thy guilt how foul must thou appear.
- Although the most acute judges of the witches and even the witches themselves, were convinced of the guilt of witchery, the guilt nevertheless was non-existent. It is thus with all guilt.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, in Walter Kaufmann, translator, The Portable Nietzsche (1954), p. 96-97.
- Friends and comrades! On that side [south] are toil, hunger, nakedness, the drenching storm, desertion, and death; on this side ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian. For my part, I go to the south.
- Francisco Pizarro. This English translation of a 1527 manuscript is in William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru (1848), vol. 1, p. 263.
- These instances are selected by the learned author as typical of the working of our national nostrum, 'Not Proven', as applied to nice and perplexing cases: a verdict which has been construed by the profane to mean 'Not Guilty, but don't do it again'.
- William Roughead, Famous crimes (1935), p. 204.
- And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons.
- O, she is fallen
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again.
- Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.
- Robert South "On the Danger of Presumptuous Sins", in Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions (1727), Vol. 3, p. 291.
- I don't like the word sin. It implies that I am being judged and found guilty. I can understand that. Over the centuries, many erroneous views and interpretations have accumulated around words such as sin, due to ignorance, misunderstanding, or a desire to control...Don't get stuck on the level of words.
- A word is no more than a means to an end. Its an abstraction. Not unlike a signpost, it points beyond itself. The word honey isn't honey... You can talk or think about God continuously for the rest of your life, but does that mean you know or have even glimpsed the reality to which the word points? ... if a word doesn't work for you anymore, then drop it and replace it with one that does work. If you don't like the word sin, then call it unconsciousness or insanity. That may get you closer to the truth, the reality behind the word, than a long-misused word like sin, and leaves little room for guilt.
- A land of levity is a land of guilt.
- Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VII. Preface.
- No guilt is forgotten so long as the conscience still knows of it.
- Stefan Zweig, Beware of Pity (1939).
- He who flies proves himself guilty.
- Danish proverb; reported in Robert Christy, Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages (1888), vol. 1, p. 471. The Bible says, "The wicked flee when no man pursueth". Proverbs 28:1.
- He declares himself guilty who justifies himself before accusation.
- Proverb; reported in Robert Christy, Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages (1888), p. 470, no. 12. Rev. F. P. Wilson, The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3d ed. (1970), p. 234, has "He who excuses himself, accuses himself". Shakespeare expressed it as, "And oftentimes excusing of a fault / Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse", King John, act IV, scene ii, lines 30–31.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 345-46.
- In ipsa dubitatione facinus inest, etiamsi ad id non pervenerint.
- Guilt is present in the very hesitation, even though the deed be not committed.
- Cicero, De Officiis (44 B.C.), III. 8.
- Let no guilty man escape, if it can be avoided. No personal consideration should stand in the way of performing a public duty.
- Ulysses S. Grant, indorsement of a letter relating to the Whiskey Ring (July 29, 1875).
- What we call real estate—the solid ground to build a house on—is the broad foundation on which nearly all the guilt of this world rests.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables, The Flight of Two Owls.
- How guilt once harbour'd in the conscious breast,
Intimidates the brave, degrades the great.
- Samuel Johnson, Irene, Act IV, scene 8.
- The gods
Grow angry with your patience. 'Tis their care,
And must be yours, that guilty men escape not:
As crimes do grow, justice should rouse itself.
- Ben Jonson, Catiline, Act III, scene 5.
- Exemplo quodcumque malo committitur, ipsi
Displicet auctori. Prima est hæc ultio, quod se
Judice nemo nocens absolvitur.
- Whatever guilt is perpetrated by some evil prompting, is grievous to the author of the crime. This is the first punishment of guilt that no one who is guilty is acquitted at the judgment seat of his own conscience.
- Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), XIII. 1.
- Ingenia humana sunt ad suam cuique levandam culpam nimio plus facunda.
- Men's minds are too ingenious in palliating guilt in themselves.
- Livy, Annales, XXVIII. 25.
- Facinus quos inquinat æquat.
- Those whom guilt stains it equals.
- Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, V. 290.
- Nulla manus belli, mutato judice, pura est.
- Neither side is guiltless if its adversary is appointed judge.
- Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, Pharsalia, VII. 263.
- Heu! quam difficile est crimen non prodere vultu.
- Alas! how difficult it is to prevent the countenance from betraying guilt.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, II. 447.
- Dum ne ob male facta peream, parvi æstimo.
- I esteem death a trifle, if not caused by guilt.
- Plautus, Captivi, III. 5. 24.
- Nihil est miserius quam animus hominis conscius.
- Nothing is more wretched than the mind of a man conscious of guilt.
- Plautus, Mostellaria, Act III. 1. 13.
- How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight!
- Alexander Pope, Eloisa to Abelard (1717), line 230.
- Haste, holy Friar,
Haste, ere the sinner shall expire!
Of all his guilt let him be shriven,
And smooth his path from earth to heaven!
- Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Canto V, Stanza 22.
- Haud est nocens, quicumque non sponte est nocens.
- He is not guilty who is not guilty of his own free will.
- Seneca the Younger, Hercules Œtæus, 886.
- Multa trepidus solet
- The fearful face usually betrays great guilt.
- Seneca the Younger, Thyestes, CCCXXX.
- Fatetur facinus is qui judicium fugit.
- He who flees from trial confesses his guilt.
- Syrus, Maxims.
- Let guilty men remember, their black deeds
Do lean on crutches made of slender reeds.
- John Webster, The White Devil; or, Vittoria Corombona, Act V, scene 6.