Frequently Asked Questions About Guilt And Shame


Ever since I graduated from college, it had been my lifelong dream to become a social worker. I belonged to the foster care system, you see, and I met a lot of kids during that time who needed help but did not know who to ask. Because of that, some of them ended up committing various crimes that caused the justice system to label them as juvenile delinquents.

I was fortunate to join a non-profit organization that offered counsel to such children as soon as I received my diploma. At first, of course, I was ecstatic to get the job. It was something I had always wanted to do; I genuinely felt like I could turn their lives around by showing them the correct path. However, reality struck me harshly when the first kid I dealt with seemed like the toughest nut to crack among the group.

Dealing With A Young Delinquent

Let’s call him Joel for the sake of not using too many pronouns (although that’s not his real name). Joel was only five years old when his parents died in a car accident, and no relative wanted to take him in, so he went straight to foster care right after the funeral. Based on the old pictures that his social workers gave me, I saw that Joel used to be a happy boy. The older he became, though, the more his smile lessened until he had nothing but a poker face from age 11 onwards.

It was challenging to blame Joel for his bitterness, given that he had already been in more than 20 foster homes. Some of them were nice, but others apparently tried to take advantage of the little boy, so he learned to be tough. Then, his last foster parent starved him, so Joel did not think twice before stealing from the grocery store a couple of times until he got caught and sent to the authorities.

The first few times I talked to Joel, he would not even acknowledge my presence. He merely looked at other people or scratched an invisible smudge on the table while I continued to babble. The only time I got Joel’s attention was when I asked, “How do you feel about what you did?”


“I feel guilty,” Joel said, his eyes still unable to meet mine.

I thought, Wow, this is a breakthrough. Not wanting to let the opportunity pass, I prodded, “Why do you feel guilty?”

“I took what was not mine. I shouldn’t have done that.”

Joel lifted the collar of his shirt to his face, and then I heard him sniffling. My heart broke for the boy. I wanted to give him a consoling hug, but that was against the protocol. Instead, I took a deep breath and said, “If you let the judge and the grocery store owner know that you are sorry, perhaps they can dump your case. You need to be brave enough to accept your mistake.”

Joel finally looked at me with those tear-filled brown eyes, and my heart melted even more. Gone was the brusque teenager that I met not too long ago. He was still wearing the same clothes and everything, but in his place was a scared little boy who felt helpless and did not know how to get out of his situation. I realized there, and then that guilt could make or break a person.

What type of emotion is guilt?

 Guilt is a type of emotion that you experience when you figure out that your actions have caused misfortune to someone or that you have done nothing to do what’s right or expected of you. It is typically felt by individuals who have survived a life-or-death situation or have committed a mortal sin.


What is pathological guilt?

 Pathological guilt is an abnormal type of accountability that affects people’s lives and aggravates various mental disorders like phobia, depression, addiction, anxiety, etc. It is irregular in the sense that a person feels guilty more often than others.

What’s guilt trip mean?

 A guilt trip is an act that an individual commits to another when they want to force the latter to do their bidding. For instance, X is pregnant and wants her husband, Y, to buy food in the middle of the night. When Y refuses, X guilt trips him by saying that not fulfilling her cravings might affect the baby’s development.

What is the guilt?

 Guilt is a remorseful emotion that a person deals with once they realize that they have offended someone or committed a crime. You may also feel guilty when you lie to another person, no matter how big or small it is.

Final Thoughts

I was in the courtroom when Joel faced the judge and the grocery store owner. I noticed in their reactions that they were surprised by the change in the teenager’s demeanor. He seemed respectful and sincere in every word; he did not even cuss at all. All Joel did was admit how guilty he was for his wrongdoings and hoped to get another opportunity to grow up like the other kids.

It did not take long for Joel to be released from the juvy. Though I no longer had to work on his case, considering he was already back in the foster care system, I made it my new mission to find a permanent home for him. It honestly was a challenge, considering most adoptive parents wanted babies or young children, not a boy who would become a full-fledged adult in less than three years. However, after dealing with a few more bumps on the road, I accompanied Joel to his new parents’ doorsteps.


The affection and bond between them were instant, so they filed for adoption after four months. They managed to provide all the necessary papers in no time; there were no contests from Joel’s remaining relatives. Hence, on the 22nd of June 2018, Joel – a former juvenile delinquent – got the family he deserved.