After our inquiry into remorse, I have lost the distinction you made between remorse and guilt. They still seem pretty much the same to me.
They are closely associated but the mechanism of each is different. Guilt is a sensation that is meant to inform us of wrong action, kind of like a warning on the dash board of your car. Guilt says stop and consider what you are doing. There is no benefit to dwelling on guilt. The correct process for dealing with guilt is recognizing and confessing the wrong, expiation for the transgression and forgiveness if possible, whether of oneself or another. No priest or church is required for this…it is a matter of clearing the slate and starting again. The key is simple sincerity.
Remorse is also a sensation and it also advises us of being in the wrong. The difference is that remorse contains regret concerning something that cannot be undone. The word comes from the Latin ‘remord’, meaning to bite again. Remorse arises from offenses against my own conscience that are permanent. I have been tried and found wanting. Remorse goes to the very nature of being human, which is to be lacking, unreliable and selfish. Remorse is born of shame and leads to inexpressible sorrow.
Remorse is for the transgressions that cannot be forgiven but can be understood and taken to heart. Remorse is the burden imposed by my forgetfulness, my heedlessness. Understanding does not lessen the burden but it does begin the process of real self-knowledge. Guilt is for forgiveness. Remorse is for understanding.
The Sufi prayer ‘istaferallah’ is an expression of remorse. It recognizes that I have betrayed my origin, I have forgotten my lord. Having forgotten, I fail in the deepest sense and my thoughts and actions reflect this.
Conscience is the mirror that awakens the sensation of remorse. Conscience sees and discerns. Conscience is an action of the heart and has nothing to do with rules. The sensation of remorse reprograms the body and mind in an indelible manner. Its gift is to diminish self-importance and open the way to compassion. Its further gift is to make us more reliable. Learn what you can from remorse. You can have no better teacher.