Guilt is, of course, a bad feeling and one of the ways that we try to get it out of our system (= get rid of it) is to tell others about what we have done and how bad we feel. This week we’re looking at the words and phrases that we use to talk about feeling guilty.
One of the most common ways to describe feeling guilty is the simple phrase to feel bad:
I felt bad because I knew I’d let them down.
Knowing how much I hurt her makes me feel really bad.
Looking now at the adjectives that we use to describe this feeling, ashamed means feeling guilty and also embarrassed about something bad that we have done:
I felt so ashamed when I saw how upset she was.
He looked rather ashamed.
He was very repentant when I confronted him with the issue.
The next morning, she was contrite and anxious to please.
Meanwhile, two adjectives that describe the manner or appearance of someone who knows that they have done something bad are shamefaced and sheepish. A person who is shamefaced shows from their expression that they feel guilty:
Later in the day he came to see me, somewhat shamefaced.
A sheepish smile or grin is slightly apologetic and embarrassed:
He gave me a sheepish smile and apologised.
He would spend his later years guilt-ridden over his neglect of his children.
Conscience-stricken, she confessed to taking the money.
The word conscience features in a number of other phrases that are used to describe feeling guilty. (Your conscience is the part of you that judges how good or bad your actions are.) If something you have done is on your conscience or weighs on your conscience, it makes you feel guilty:
I was quite unkind to her and it’s been on my conscience ever since.
If you have a guilty conscience, you feel bad about something wrong that you have done:
If I’m honest, I didn’t treat him so well and I have a guilty conscience about it.
Finally, something that pricks your conscience makes you feel guilty about something that you have done and causes you to do something that makes you then feel better:
You mentioning Sheila yesterday pricked my conscience and I finally called her.
Here’s hoping you have a good week and that your conscience is clear (= you do not feel guilty about anything)!