GUILT and SHAME QUOTES

Nothing more unqualified the man to act with prudence than a misfortune that is attended with shame and guilt. Jonathan Swift

We are more pained when one of our friends is guilty of something shameful than when we do it ourselves. Nietzsche

What a chimera, then, is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy! A judge of all things, feeble worms of the earth, depository of the truth the glory and the shame of the universe. Pascal

An evil conscience is often quiet, but never secure. Syrus

If we have anything kind to say, any tender sentiment to express, we feel a sense of shame. Ugo Betti

The Refinement of Shame. People are not ashamed to think something foul, but they are ashamed when they think these foul thoughts are attributed to them. Nietzsche

One unconsciously takes it for granted that doer and sufferer think and feel alike, and according to this supposition we measure the guilt of the one by the pain of the other. Nietzsche

Where guilty is, rage and courage doth abound. Ben Jonson

There may be responsible persons, but there are no guilty ones. Albert Camus

He declares himself guilty who justifies himself before accusation. Thomas Fuller

Self – righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us. Eric Hoffer

It is only because man believes himself to be free, not because he is free, that he experiences remorse and pricks of conscience. Nietzsche

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 

It is cruelty to the innocent not to punish the guilty. Anon

The only shame is to have none. Pascal

Shame upon those ignorant fools who are persuaded by reason into prejudice. Calculus 

Nothing but man of all envenomed things, doth work upon itself, with inborn stings. John Donne

Guilt always hurries towards its complement, punishment: only there does its satisfaction lie. Lawrence Darrell

A guilty conscience needs no accuser. Proverb

Everyone in daily life carries such a heavy mixed burden on his own conscience that he is reluctant to penalize those who have been caught. Brooks Atkinson

Guilt is ever at a loss, and confusion waits upon it; when innocence and bold truth are always ready for expression. William Congreve 

The greatest incitement to guilt is the hope of sinning with impunity. Cicero

They whose guilt within their bosom lies, imagine every eye beholds their blame. Shakespeare

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. William Shakespeare

I regard that man as lost, who has lost his sense of shame. Plautus

Nothing is more wretched than a guilty conscience. Plautus

Guilt has very quick ears to an accusation. Henry Fielding

Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. Exodus 23:7

It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape. Thomas Jefferson

If a man fools me once, shame on him. If he fools me twice, shame on me. Proverb

The guilty think all talk is of themselves. Chaucer

Without the spice of guilt, sin cannot be fully savored. Alexander Chase

It is not the criminal things which are hardest to confess, but the ridiculous and shameful. Rousseau

Actress Jane Fonda’s mother, Frances, suffered from a severe mental illness which would in time result in her suicide. As a child, unaware of the depth of this anguish, her mother’s frequent absences from home were both hurtful and frustrating. In time, this turned into anger. Thus, on what was to be her final visit home, Jane refused to come out of her room to say good-bye. Regret for this will wound the adult Ms Fonda throughout her lifetime. Quote source: My Life So Far by Jane Fonda

He that is shameless is graceless. Thomas Fuller

I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed. Jonathan Swift

Be ashamed to die unless you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann

All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand! Oh, oh, oh! Macbeth by William Shakespeare

In his 77th year, Jake took to his bed for the last time. As he lay dying, the preacher called on him. “ Don't you want to forgive your enemies?” Jake smiled. “I ain't got none,” he said. I licked ‘em all.” James Thurber Album, Schuster 1952

Singer Ray Charles, with commendable frankness, wrote, “I didn't use drugs because I was black or blind. The fact is, I used them because I liked how they made me feel.” He decided to end his addictions when he found himself arrested during one of his son's’ Little League games. If his drug abuse had reached the point where its results had become a source of humiliation to his children, it would need to be halted. Source: Brother Ray by Ray Charles

When celebrities Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton married, Ms. Taylor had two children, by two previous husbands. To a large extent, Burton was the only father both children had known. During one lunch, Liza Todd, then aged eleven, persisted in asking Burton why a dog he had owned in a recent film was no longer with him. Burton’s attempt to explain the difference between film and reality led to yet further queries. When she continued to ask, Burton snarled”, He’s no more my dog than you are my daughter.” According to Burton’s diary, Liza gave “a strained little laugh” then said, “That’s very nice.” He continues to recount that “Elizabeth was livid.” Shortly afterwards, appalled by his own cruelty, he apologized  from the depths of his soul, both to Elizabeth and Liza. Still, as he admits in his journal, “It wasn't near enough.”

Reason, if we do not live by it, will serve to increase our shame and guilt. Thomas Fuller

Globally Adored child star Shirley Temple would have proved more than human if her fame, especially at her young age, had not rendered her, to some degree, self-important. As an adult, she recalls, with deep guilt, the way she harassed a woman assigned to help her dress for a role which involved a number of snaps, zippers and buckles. Ms. Temple admits to having ordered this dresser to hurry, move faster, not to be so slow. The dresser, with quiet dignity, said, “Miss Temple, I am working as quickly as I can”. Then she continued her work with a steadfastness indicating her refusal to be bullied. Quote source: Child Star: An Autobiography by Shirley Temple Black. 

Every man is guilty of all the good he didn't do. Voltaire

Nile perch are enormous but lethargic fish, easy to catch once they have taken your bait. Some are bright golden yellow, some grey pink with the large, round surprised eyes of all fish, in which we humans cannot read any expression of pain or suffering, so that, as with insects or mollusks, we feel absolved of their deaths. Source: I dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann

Regret is the emotion I most don’t want to have when my parents are gone. I don't want to blame myself for not having been there, and I don't want to be ashamed of myself for being critical or impatient. I am already troubled by the times I've fallen short. … At the same time, I know there are limitations to my power. I cannot protect them from loneliness, fear, and suffering. Source: Where the trail grows faint: A year in the life of a therapy dog team by Lynne Hugo.

Comedian Russell Means finds himself plagued, even in his adulthood, by memories of acts of mischief and pranks done during his childhood. Thus, at around seven or eight years old, he watched an elderly neighbor planting flowers. The man, seeing Russell’s gaze, explained and illustrated, in some detail, the ways in which the seeds could be rooted into the ground, then grow into seedlings and buds, then, in time, flowers. Stepping into his home for a moment, he asked the young Means to be sure not to trample upon his flowers. Once the man had gone inside, Means, after waiting a moment, felt gripped by an urge to tread on every flower until it disappeared into the flat of the earth beneath it. He did so. The hurt and shock in his neighbor’s eyes when he emerged from his house and viewed the destruction, continues to haunt the now wealthy and renowned comedian.

Shame, that a stupid Judge commands respect, not for himself, only the wig. Thomas Fuller

Quote from Kurt Cobain suicide note: I haven't felt the excitement for so many years. I feel guilty beyond words about these things. When we’re back-stage and the lights go out, and the manic roar of the crowd begins, it does not affect me. The fact is, I can’t fool you. It isn't fair to you or to me. The worst crime I can think of is to trick people by faking it, and pretending to be having 100% fun. Source: Cornflakes with John Lennon by Robert Hilburn

I am often haunted by shame at the fact of my not visiting my homeland more often. Yet, the guilt is not such as to impel me to suffer the misery of travel. Fortunately, technology facilitates contact enough to lessen the distance, or at least my sense of its vastness. Source: Dreams of Utopia by Sally Leary

In darkness one may be ashamed of what one does, without the shame of disgrace. Sophocles 

A gentle response to wrongdoing engenders a far deeper sense of shame than does one of well-warranted anger. Kim Campion

Describing her bout with bulimia, actress Sue Johnston reminisces: I was utterly horrified with what I was doing to myself but I couldn’t stop. I would look in the mirror and cry with shame. I would think to myself, I'm in my early forties; I’m not some silly teenager. It took me years to confront my fears. Source Things I couldn't tell my mother by Sue Johnston

There is no shame in the accidents of chance, but only in the consequence of our own misdeeds. Fawn Richardson 

It is more shameful to distrust one’s friends than to be deceived by them. Rochefoucauld

We should often feel ashamed of our best actions if the world could see all of the motives which produced them. Rochefoucauld


Was TV Presenter Jeremy Kyle insensitive to the feelings of visually impaired people in having written the following?  While deciding whether to undergo laser surgery or begin wearing spectacles, he posits that, if such glasses were broken during a night out with friends:  “Would I stumble around blindly for the rest of the evening or would I have to go home straight away? No fun, game over, sent home like a blind Billy No Mates? Boo.” Quote from: You Couldn't Make It Up by Jeremy Kyle, page 172.

You cannot lay remorse upon the innocent nor lift it from the heart of the guilty. Unbidden shall it call in the night, that men may wake and gaze upon themselves. Gibran

Playwright Tennessee Williams’s Sister was given a frontal lobotomy, believed at the time to have a calming effect upon those made obstreperous by delusions. The decision to perform this procedure was made while the young Rose, during a time when Williams’ was away, mentioned goings-on at her boarding-school which were then deemed unacceptable. Williams would be, for the rest of his life, guilt-ridden by the memory of one morning, as Rose walked down the stairs of their parents’ home, he said she was ugly. After her surgery, it was impossible for him to be sure he had truly obtained her forgiveness. Still, in addition to ensuring her optimal care, he portrayed her in tender terms in two of his plays. Quote source: The Glass Menagerie and Suddenly last Summer

When I was fifteen, I remember my mum taking me to the posh clothes shop on London Road to get my first grown-up coat. It was royal-blue and very adult, and I thought, Gosh, this is great! But when my mum said to the assistant, “What’s the lowest price you'll take for this?” I nearly died of shame, and wanted to run away. Source: What’s It All About? by Cilla Black

Anyone can be shamed, but feeling guilt requires empathy within. George Saunders 

It is a bitter dose to be taught obedience after you have learned to rule. Syrus

After the death of Lord Randolph Churchill, the widowed Jennie, mother of Winston Churchill, found herself impecunious. Thus, in her shock at Winston’s having over-spent his allowance, she wrote: “I must say I think it is too bad of you. Indeed it is hardly honorable, knowing that you are entirely dependent on me, and that I give you the highest allowances I can afford. I have paid off your debts, but have told your creditors not to apply to me in future, as you must manage your own affairs. It is useless my saying more. One has been over this ground before and it is not a pleasant one. You cannot but feel ashamed of yourself under the present circumstances.  Source: American Jennie by Anne Sebba

He that cannot conceal his shame will not conceal another's. Thomas Fuller

With a degree of shame I confess my favorite characters are the rogues and the villains; those who do all they can to defeat the fine peoples. While I do not admire these demons I find their antics and manoeuvre far more fascinating than those characters we are meant to admire. Clarence Bloom

Anecdote: Patti La Belle  beginning her career in a group, then becoming a solo act, recounts in her memoir, Don't Block the Blessings, a moment which causes her on-going guilt. One of her sisters, during the last stages of a terminal illness, asked Ms. La Belle to bring her one of her luscious, homemade bacon sandwiches. Ms. La Belle  exhausted by combining constant work with continuous hospital visits, promised to come back with that sandwich, as early as allowed, the next morning. During the night, her sister passed on. Thus, although Ms. La Belle had no idea this would happen, she remains scarred and shamed by the memory.  Source: Patti La Belle 

It is never more difficult to speak well than when we are ashamed of keeping silent. L. A. Rochefoucauld 

When a nation has allowed itself to fall under a tyrannical regime, it cannot be absolved from the faults due to the guilt of that regime. Winston Churchill

A detective, having infiltrated a gang similar to the Hell’s Angels, became accepted by the innermost core of the group.  He recounts his ambivalence when having to testify against them: I was their friend.  I was their brother.  I knew their kids’ names. … I Drank with them, I partied with them; I rolled with them and fought for them.  … When my mom died and no-one from the police force had even offered their condolences,  but and guys like “Evil” had hugged me, and told me, “I love you, Billy”, I felt and understood the bond holding together these motorcycle gangs. Under and alone by William Queen

Women singly do a good deal of harm. Women in bulk are chastening.  Frank Moore Colby

Writer David Nobbs recalls with deep regret: “I was ashamed of the cozy unpretentious simplicity of my parents’ lives, ashamed that we had tea instead of dinner, that we never went abroad. I’m more ashamed of this than anything else in my life. Oh, not that we weren't sophisticated. That doesn't matter a hoot. Ashamed of how much I must have hurt my dear parents.”  Source I Didn't Get Where I Am Today by David Nobbs


In a memoir, a man recounts the childhood horror of inadvertently hitting his father on the head with a baseball bat.  In its immediate aftermath, he said, “I'm sorry, Daddy, oh God, I'm sorry-are you OK?”  .. I went from horrified to ashamed as he took the bat from my hand.  The amazing thing was that, despite his pain, he actually seemed glad that the incident had happened that it vindicated his lectures on caution.  …  He made sure I knew he was feeling pain.  As a lesson, in addition to fear, there was guilt. From the Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue by Robert Klein

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38

Born in a North Korean prison camp, Shin Dong-Hyuk grew up with an animal sense of self-preservation.  As a child, he felt no guilt after eating his mother’s sparse ration of food while she was on work assignment. Later, his informing a guard about his mother and brother’s plan to escape resulted in their execution.  Still, he could find no trace of remorse.  Later, a journalist recording his feelings recounts:  He despised both his mother and his father for selfishly breeding in a labor camp, for producing offspring doomed to die behind barbed wire. … He did not find it degrading to lick soup off the floor.  He was not ashamed to ask a guard for forgiveness.  It didn’t trouble his conscience to betray a friend for food; these were merely survival skills. From: Escape from camp 14 by Blaine Harden. 

DEFINITION and MEANING
We feel guilt and shame when reflecting on actions, words, at times even thoughts which we find regrettable.  Ideally, we learn from such sorrow, not to cause pain in the same way again either to ourselves or others.  At the same time, brooding too long over wrongs from the past can become self-destructive.