Difference Between Guilt and Conviction

Committing a crime or sin can lead to feeling many emotions and the person feeling it goes through many different stages. Often the two words, guilt and conviction are interchangeably used for each other.

But there is a fine line between the two of them and create a great difference in the lives of people experiencing it.

Guilt vs Conviction

The main difference between guilt and conviction is that the former leads to the feeling of despair and the latter, to the feeling of liberation. Both of the terms can be confused for each other, but in order to understand the terms better, one needs to differentiate those well on proper grounds.

Guilt vs Conviction

Guilt is felt when a person realises he or she has committed something wrong on a personal level. It is not a legal term but simply an emotion.

It often leads to the feeling of shame being experienced by the person and ultimately to despair. But when he or she recovers from that sense of remorse, he or she feels to do something better.

Conviction, on the other hand, is simply a legal term used by the court of law.

When a criminal case is filed in court, the person accused in the case appears before the jury or judge and if the person is found guilty, he or she is sentenced to punishment as per the standards of the court.

Comparison Table Between Guilt and Conviction

Parameters of ComparisonGuiltConviction
SourceThe source of guilt can be self-realisation on the individual’s part.Conviction happens only when one is accused in a court of law.
EffectsShame, hopelessness, disregard for one’s own selfHope, affirmation, acceptance of one’s crime, urge to reform
PunishmentIt solely depends on the individual.But here the accused gets punishment by the court.
TypesThere are two types of guilts- appropriate and inappropriateA Conviction can be of many types for different crimes.

What is Guilt?

Generally, guilt is looked at with a negative connotation or rather something that should be ashamed of. But it can be looked at as an awareness if somebody has done something wrong.

It is a kind of a benchmark that indicates or points towards a violated behaviour done by someone.

On the other hand, guilt can be associated with the feeling of regret. The ownership or responsibility must be carried out by the person feeling guilty of something.

Usually what happens is that the person who is feeling guilty feels this pressing need to release that regret or pain of doing something wrong.

If a person suffers from guilt, he or she tries to reveal or share that guilt with someone to release that burden. It is never internalized.

Guilt requires a feeling of empathy and it is generally considered as something good. But there is a degree of guilt that is considered unhealthy and unproductive and it is called inappropriate guilt.

The reason behind considering guilt as something good is that it tends to lead to some kind of change. It indicates a type of corrective action.

It shows that the person feeling guilty is empathetic and empathy is being thought of as a positive characteristic.  

What is Conviction?

The word conviction has a relation with the court of law. A person is declared convicted when he or she is found guilty of committing a crime.

It is a legal term that is associated with the finding of a case. When a criminal or legal case is started against a person, these terms are usually been used.

Now there can be two consequences for the accused – he or she will be freed from all the charges and otherwise, the accused can be convicted.

It is a decision of a criminal court according to which an accused is held guilty. Therefore, it can be defined as adjudication of a court holding a person guilty.

So this state of being found or proved guilty called conviction cannot be interchanged with the word ‘guilt’.

Here, the legal system of a particular state is involved which makes it more serious in nature.

It totally depends on the judge or jury and the shreds of evidence or proof produced in the court whether the person accused is convicted or not.

After conviction, the accused becomes a criminal and is sentenced according to the degree of his or her crime.

To reach a conviction, the case has to be represented before a jury or judge in the court and certain standards must be followed.

Thus, conviction involves a legal process which should be strictly followed as a person’s life depends on that.

Main Differences Between Guilt and Conviction

  1. Guilt is a term used by laymen to indicate a particular state of mind. But conviction is a legal term.
  2. The sense of guilt comes after one commits something he or she regards as unethical. But conviction happens in a court of law. 
  3. Guilt can be regarded as something positive. But conviction occurs when someone commits a crime and it gets proved in court. So it cannot be regarded as something positive. 
  4. Guilt needs not to be proved, it should be realised by the person. But conviction requires evidence.
  5. Guilt can leave a heavy burden on the person feeling it. It can make you feel shameful and hopeless. But conviction, on the other side, brings hope and makes the burden light. 
Difference Between Guilt and Conviction


Both the terms, guilt and conviction, have certain features in common. Guilt, on one hand, is a feeling that makes a person regret his doings that he or she may find wrong.

But conviction happens when a person is proved of committing a crime backed by proper evidence in a court of law.

Though the former is not a legal term and does not have legal consequences, it may destroy a person emotionally. Whereas conviction can be seen as something positive that helps a person grow.


  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/getdoi.cfm?doi=10.1037/0022-3514.62.2.318
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1990-97773-004
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