I cannot think of a word that describes the feeling of "doing the right thing". I.e. the feeling as a result of having made the right choices, of committing an act of altruism, of having made the correct decision. It needs to describe the feeling — there are lots of words for the act itself.

EDIT: Great feedback thanks. None are quite hitting it on the head so I'll go further and say that the word needs to imply no selfish motivation - the act of "doing the right thing" is implicitly done for the greater good, rather than to satisfy their own ends.

I guess the philosophical arguments about whether anything is ever truly done for non-selfish reasons will need to wait ;)

  • Righteous would be a good choice except that some people might take it to mean self-righteous. May 29, 2013 at 5:04
  • If proved right, then vindicated, until then, keep mum, perhaps.
    – Kris
    May 29, 2013 at 5:48
  • I don't see it as an emotion per se but a word I've heard in similar contexts is affirmed, with the personal feeling that one made right choices being self-affirmation. (I've heard "feelings of affirmation" used before.)
    – user39720
    May 29, 2013 at 6:18
  • Perhaps something like energized could work. Sure, one can feel "energized" by any number of things, but most feelings have a plethora of root causes. I might feel bitter about the untimely death of a loved one, but there are plenty of other things that might cause bitterness. It might be unreasonable to ask for a word that describes how I feel at the untimely loss of a loved one, but wouldn't describe how I might feel in any other circumstances.
    – J.R.
    May 29, 2013 at 10:20
  • Related: urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=warm+fuzzies
    – TecBrat
    Mar 29, 2016 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


Different people may of course feel differently even if they do the same right things; and people will not always feel “as they should”, but instead as they will; thus, which of the following terms will be appropriate will vary with situation. I'm sure there are dozens more words that could apply that express emotions people feel when they do something that is right.

smug, “too pleased or satisfied about something you have achieved...”
proud, in sense “Possessed of a due sense of what one is worth or deserves” and other senses as well
meritorious, “deserving of merit or commendation; deserving reward”
altruistic, “Regardful of others; beneficent; unselfish”
righteous, “moral and virtuous, suggesting sanctimonious”
sanctimonious, in sense of feeling morally better than or superior to others
godly, in sense “Gloriously good”
pious, “exhibiting piety, devout, godfearing”
honorable, “Worthy of respect; respectable”
virtuous, “having good moral qualities and behaviour”
seraphic, ie angelic
right-minded, “Decent, morally upright; in moral agreement with a position”
self-satisfied, “satisfied with oneself; especially too satisfied; smug; slightly arrogant [eg] He stood back and looked at his project with a self-satisfied expression”

  • 1
    @MετάEd – Not my downvote, but I'm thinking of that feeling I've had when I've had a chance to "do the right thing" (getting that wallet back to its rightful owner at the Minneapolis airport comes to mind), and none of these words describe how I felt. Perhaps I did a virtuous or honorable thing (the owner seemed to think so), but I didn't feel particularly virtuous, honorable, seraphic, pious, or smug – although it did feel good to do the right thing. That said, this is a tough nut to crack, and we've got to start the conversation somewhere. This is a decent attempt.
    – J.R.
    May 29, 2013 at 10:08
  • @MετάEd, Not my downvote either :) I imagine some people will think of several of these as not emotions that can be felt, but instead as states of mind or as perceived attitudes. May 29, 2013 at 13:40
  • @jwpat7: To your credit, I can say the sentence "I feel _____," using the words in your list, and just about all of them sound reasonable (save maybe seraphic?). So I think these words can be classified as emotions as well as attitudes.
    – J.R.
    May 29, 2013 at 19:24
  • 1
    I didn't vote against this answer but I can speculate as to why others did. Some of these words don't have specific connotations of righteousness (proud thief for instance). Some of these words also have connotations of arrogance, especially smug, which is expressly insulting and suggests the opposite of what is desired (too [as in overly] indicates you lack sufficient reason to feel as good as you do). Piety is almost strictly religious and relates to pleasing god. I'd suggest reexamining the list and cutting it down by half, if not more, although that might betray your supporters....
    – Tonepoet
    Jul 26, 2015 at 20:48
  • Just say "I feel good." (Note that is what J.R. came up with in the course of writing his comment, above.) You are feeling something very basic and there is no need to fancy it up.
    – ab2
    Jul 26, 2015 at 21:22

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