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Remorse vs Regret: What’s the Difference?

Even though remorse and regret are two emotions that are related to each other, they are very different from one another.

What Is Regret?

Regret is the emotion of wishing one had made a different decision in the past because the consequences of their decision were unfavorable.

Regret can be over something you did or didn’t do.

Regret may vary from mild to deep.

Regret can cause the person to feel pain for themselves, but not necessarily for the other person who was hurt by their actions. 

Examples of Regretful Statements

 “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed me.”

“It hurts me to think of all the pain and suffering I put you through.”

“I wish I could take it all back and undo what I did to you.”

 “I wish I’d had the courage to live more authentically.” 

What Is Remorse?

Remorse often co-exists with regret but it is much more and more intense.

Remorse involves admitting and taking responsibility for one’s mistakes.

Remorse comes from true empathy for the pain the other person feels because of one’s actions.

Remorse motivates the person to address the consequences of their action and make amends. 

Examples of Remorseful Statements

“I’m sorry I hurt you.”

 “I’m sorry I talked to you that way. It was inappropriate and offensive.”

 “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

 “I regret saying that. I should have thought about how that would make you feel.”

“I was wrong when I did/said … please forgive me.” 

Remorse vs Regret: What’s the Difference?

Both emotions stem from a sense of guilt, but guilt is often associated with a past wrong decision or action, while remorse focuses more on the effect those decisions and actions had on others.

Only remorse leads to a real change.

RegretRemorse
Is about wishing you did or didn’t do something.Involves taking responsibility for one’s actions.
Doesn’t necessarily consider the other person’s feelingsCreates a sense of guilt and sorrow for hurting someone else
Is about avoiding punishment in the futureIs about avoiding hurting others in the future
Doesn’t necessarily lead to a true apology.Leads to a real apology and change

The Positive Power Of Negative Emotions

Negative emotions are as essential as positive ones. They help us survive.

Fear keeps us away from danger. Disgust shields us from poisons. Anger alerts us when we’re being treated poorly and helps us assert ourselves.

Regret can help us learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them again.

Remorse helps us make amends and repair relationships. It makes us better people.

Emotions worksheets

Conclusion

Remorse often co-exists with regret but is more intense, focuses on the harm done onto others, and instills the desire to make amends.

A person who feels remorse also feels regret, but the reverse is not necessarily true.


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