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.
"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.
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.