It is not that the person has done something that is necessarily wrong; it is more as if a situation occurred and the person feels they may have caused it, or the person feels guilty about it in general, so he or she would like to "make up" for it. The word for it is on the tip of my tongue, but I just cannot think of it. If possible, I would like both nouns and adjectives. Thank you.

  • Repentant? Penitent? Remorseful? Contrite? Rueful? We need more clues. – Dan Bron Mar 29 '16 at 21:46
  • Sounds overconscientious to me. – jxh Mar 30 '16 at 0:44

"contrite" as suggested in a comment and accepted as the right answer by the OP, means "feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for having done something". It doesn't necessarily mean the agent feels as if they must do something good (atone) as a way to show they are sorry about what they have done, though.

  • contrite - (adj) feeling or showing regret for bad behavior, feeling or showing sorrow for having done something bad or wrong : repentant "The prince lowered his head so as to appear humbled and contrite." — Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy MW

Examples in a sentence:

  • She apologized and it was clear she was contrite.
  • He avoided meeting my eyes after having damaged my car. I could see it was the result of his feeling contrite.
  • Ah, my apologies. I am not a native speaker, so sometimes words do not mean what I think they do. What other words do you think would be more fitting? Repentant, perhaps? – Hello Mar 29 '16 at 23:43
  • @Hello Depending on context, any of the words mentioned by Dan Bron. Try to find them in Google Books and see when and how they are used. – Centaurus Mar 30 '16 at 0:43

When I reflect on the past, I sometimes remember incidents where I was rude or thoughtless. These incidents may have occurred when I was just a child, too young to really know better. But they still embarrass me sometimes. I sometimes feel a sense of guilt, shame or embarrassment.

Even as an adult, we sometimes make the wrong choices. People can be coerced into doing bad things - by their government or employer, for example. These can also make us feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed.

When I was a teacher, I was horrified by the corruption I witnessed in public education. I became a whistle-blower, then a political activist. I fought longer and harder than anyone else in Seattle history. But, in the end, the bad guys won.

So I'm proud of the fact that I took a stand, yet I still feel a terrible sense of loss, despair and even guilt, because when I lost, the students lost, too.

Such experiences only encourage me to care more about the oppressed and fight back harder against the oppressors. I guess you could describe it as conviction or empathy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.