Guilt is a common emotion that people experience when they believe they have done something wrong or hurt someone else. However, not all guilt is the same. There are two types of guilt: healthy and unhealthy.

No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” 


Allan Watts

Healthy guilty

Healthy guilt is when you feel remorse for your actions and want to make amends or learn from your mistakes. Healthy guilt can motivate you to improve yourself, apologize, or repair a relationship. Healthy guilt is proportional to the situation and does not last longer than necessary.

Unhealthy guilt

Unhealthy guilt is when you feel excessive or irrational shame for your actions, even if they were not your fault or did not cause any harm. Unhealthy guilt can make you feel unworthy, depressed, or anxious. Unhealthy guilt can prevent you from moving on, forgiving yourself, or accepting forgiveness from others. Unhealthy guilt is disproportionate to the situation and persists for a long time.

Knowing the difference

The difference between healthy and unhealthy guilt is important to recognize because it can affect your mental health and well-being. Healthy guilt can help you grow as a person and maintain healthy relationships. Unhealthy guilt can harm your self-esteem and interfere with your happiness. If you struggle with unhealthy guilt, you may benefit from seeking professional help or finding ways to cope with your feelings.

Guilt that helps you grow

Healthy guilt is proportional to the offense. It arises when we have violated our own or someone else’s moral standards, and it motivates us to take responsibility, apologize, and repair the damage. Healthy guilt helps us grow as individuals and maintain healthy relationships with others. For example, if you forget your friend’s birthday, you might feel guilty and send them a belated gift or card.

Stop getting stuck in the past

Unhealthy guilt is disproportionate to the offense. It arises when we have unrealistic or rigid expectations of ourselves or others, and it leads us to feel ashamed, worthless, or hopeless. Unhealthy guilt keeps us stuck in the past and prevents us from learning from our mistakes. For example, if you make a minor error at work, you might feel guilty and think that you are a failure or that your boss will fire you.

The key to dealing with guilt is to recognize whether it is healthy or unhealthy, and to respond accordingly. If you feel healthy guilt, acknowledge your wrongdoing, express your remorse, and take action to make things right. If you feel unhealthy guilt, challenge your negative thoughts, forgive yourself, and focus on the positive aspects of yourself and your situation. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and that guilt is not a permanent state of being.

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