Acting Guilty Does Not Equal Guilty

Today’s theme for Six Word Friday is “guilt”.

If my beagle could talk, he’d say:

Guilt?  Me?  I didn’t do it!

 Our dogs have such unique personalities.  I love them all, but handling guilt is probably one of the biggest differences between them.

Dog #1 feels guilt about everything, whether he did it or not.  When I give the withering mom stare, he’ll instantly go into full defensive mode and mope around until told he’s a good boy.

The beagle on the other hand, believes it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.  He is the one that will say uh-uh, no guilt here – I did what I wanted and oh look, I’m too cute to resist.

The miniature pinscher is very self-centered.  It’s all about him.  Me, me, me is his mantra.  Guilt is what happens when he gets caught and yelled at and then locked in the crate.  Especially if he’s looking right at me when he lifts his leg to pee inside the house.  He’s still trying to figure out why that makes me screaming mad at him.  Isn’t that what the coffee table leg is for?

Of course, humans handle guilt differently too.  It’s good to remember that guilt or lack of guilt from someone doesn’t necessarily mean they did or didn’t do something.  It may simply mean they are processing their emotions differently than we are, whether it be a child, spouse or co-worker.  Guilt may also be triggered by an overactive sense of justice, while a lack of guilt may stem from someone who is simply a better liar about this kind of thing.

Agatha Christie did a brilliant mystery based on guilt called “Towards Zero“.  [SPOILER ALERT HERE – but the book is still worth reading.]  In the book, the police detective’s daughter is accused of something at school and confesses to it.  As he puzzles over why his daughter would do this, he’s trying to solve a crime.  When he realizes that the woman he thinks is guilty is being coerced into an admission of guilt, he realizes that his daughter was coerced as well.  For both, the confession was a relief even though neither of them did what they were accused of.  It was a fascinating psychological drama through to the end.

So the next time someone, human or otherwise, acts guilty, remember – that may or may not mean there is something to actually be guilty about.

Making time for our passions has been the topic the last few days at A Daily Life.  There’s a post about making time to do the things we want in life plus a review of Amy Andrew’s book, Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free.

Did you think there’d be another dog picture today?  No, I thought I’d use another animal that also demonstrates a lack of guilt about anything – the seagulls along the James River.  I took this during lunch earlier this week.

Have a good weekend!

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I am a backyard adventurer, philosopher and observer, recording my life in journals and photographs. Visit my blog at

13 Comments Leave a comment

    • I was actually a bit surprised when my post wandered into that. I was really pleased with how it turned out, especially since I am one of those who will act guilty without being guilty. It’s a good reminder for me to moderate that behavior and control it better.


  1. I was once interviewed for a job at Oshman’s (are they still in business?) anyway, the job interview involved a personality profile complete with a test administered by psychologist! (I was young, or I would have told them where to take their test… I digress.) Anyway, the Psych told me I was a “parasympathetic.” What is that?” you may ask. According to him it is “someone who feels guilty even if they didn’t do it.” Thus, if asked about a crime, you would feel guilty and give a guilty response via your BP and facial expressions. Apparently, I would flunk a lie detector test.

  2. Interesting and thoughtful post; and a Agatha book I have not read! I’ll check the library. Oh, birds are good too. :)

  3. I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie’s work too, in fact, I think I’m due a bit of a re-read sometime soon :)

    I know what you mean about *feeling* guilty and *being* guilty. As women, I think we feel guilty about so much for so much of the time that we convince ourselves that we really are guilty even though we didn’t do anything wrong. Surely I’m not the only mother who wishes she could turn back the clock and do it “right” with her kids from day one instead of getting into the swing of it just as they reach adulthood…am I??!

  4. I find it interesting that dogs have such differing personalities. Love Agatha Christie’s work, and that’s a great photo.

    • I think you’re right about the cats never showing guilt – why should they? It’s all theirs anyhow. And the birds, well, they’re seagulls. Guilt is not in their DNA.

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