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My God, What Have I Done?

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A moment's anger spawns a lifetime of grief, horror, and guilt.

"What have I done? Sweet Jesus, what have I done?
Become a thief in the night, become a dog on the run?
Have I fallen so far, and is the hour so late,
That nothing remains but the cry of my hate?"
Jean Valjean after robbing a priest who had just given him shelter, Les Misérables


Well-intentioned but misguided character — very likely a Tragic Hero, a Tragic Villain or Anti-Villaincomes to realize that his actions have caused incredible damage, physical pain, emotional pain, or even loss of life. The usual line that comes after this is the title of the article (sometimes, without the "My God"). Tears of Remorse may accompany it.

Often the realization only comes when someone/something close to the person is hurt or destroyed. In quite a few cases, that "someone/something close" is the very entity he was trying to get rid of to begin with.

Usually delivered dramatically, sometimes, well, over-the-top. A villain might utter this line if they're about to take the Last-Second Chance. Or a hero after being freed from The Virus, being Brainwashed and Crazy, or a Superpowered Evil Side, or after making an unintentional but catastrophic mistake.


Sometimes followed by Must Make Amends, other times by an Ignored Epiphany. This trope is almost always the cause of The Atoner's Heel–Face Turn with the memory used as a constant reminder of why they must follow the path of atonement. Can also lead into He Who Fights Monsters.

These Hands Have Killed is related but distinct, because it can be a reaction even to a justifiable killing.

See also Screaming at Squick.

Often the result if the protagonist becomes an Unwitting Pawn. Sometimes combined with Heroic BSoD; common with Villainous BSoD. Can be a self-inflicted What the Hell, Hero? Contrast I Did What I Had to Do, Be All My Sins Remembered, and I Regret Nothing. Compare It's All My Fault, Heel Realization and Kick the Morality Pet. See also Out, Damned Spot!, Being Evil Sucks, Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, and Sympathetic Murder Backstory. This sort of moment is often why a Regretful Traitor feels that regret. If it's done by two or more characters who are fighting, then it's Dissension Remorse. May be the result of an all too successful Pygmalion Plot to Teach Him Anger. When a work tries to deliberately invoke this as an audience reaction, that's You Bastard! (whether it's successful or not). Although they are not related, it's possible to overlap with What Have I Become? If "My God" is taken literally, it may lead to a Heel–Faith Turn.


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Other examples:

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  • Marriage A-la-Mode:
    • In The Bagnio, the Countess is on her knees next to her dying husband, begging his forgiveness with tears in her eyes for the adulterous affair that has led to his death. The fact that the bed is unmade, the clothes and masks from the masquerade are on the floor, and the door lock has been broken make it clear that the Earl surprised his wife and Silvertongue in flagrante delicto, while Silvertongue's genitals are just visible as he flees through the window, all contributing to a sense of the Countess' pleas for forgiveness being intended to assuage her conscience rather than motivated by genuine remorse.
    • But with the blood of two men on her hands, the Countess commits suicide in The Lady's Death, and now it is the dull-witted manservant who wears an expression of horror at the results of his actions, having been the one who bought the fatal dose of laudanum at his mistress' request.
  • As seen above, "Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan" depicts tsar Ivan IV just after he'd fatally struck his son in the head (note that this version of events might be Hollywood History, and the painting was actually vandalized by a museum patron for being historically inaccurate).

  • Child Ballad 54, "The Cherry-Tree Carol",
    "Oh, what have I done, Lord?
  • The bandit in "Bonnie Banks o'Fordie" has one when he learns that the girl he just murdered is his sister. It ends with him stabbing himself.


  • In episode five of Mystery Show, Starlee's client is shocked to hear that she actually sent a friend to talk to Jake Gyllenhaal in a restaurant.
    David: Your field agent really went over to him? Oh my god. What did I put in motion?

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Instead of celebrating his success in turning the company around financially, The Great Muta resigned from All Japan Pro Wrestling in disgrace after Super Hate was beat so badly in an altercation with Taru it resulted in him having a stroke. That's not an example of this but his reaction to All Japan's buyer Speed Partners IT proceeding to fire his friend and run the business even further into the ground than while turning the rest of the puroresu promotions against AJPW was, as Muta tried to buy back his company shares and resume his position to no avail. On the up side for him, this caused several All Japan wrestlers to resign in loyalty to Muta and provided Wrestle-1 with a lot of publicity that attracted many fans looking for more of his "Puroresu Love" brand.
  • This was Deonna Purrazzo's reaction after she accidentally hit Mandy Leon with a chair during Mandy's No DQ Women of Honor match with Taeler Hendrix, as Hendrix sat there mocking Deonna with an Evil insane laugh.
  • This was Gangrel's reaction after accidentally knocking out the referee during his match with The Hungarian Barbarian at Pro Xcitement Wrestling's June 23, 2002 show. Darren Wyse, The Hungarian Barbarian's manager, was on commentary and used this opportunity to interfere, bringing out Gangrel's Violently Protective Wife Luna Vachon to make the save in one of her two Big Damn Heroes moments that night.

    Tabletop Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Part of the meltdown of Acro in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. You don't actually see the moment onscreen but the aftereffects are obvious during his breakdown. In attempting to murder Regina he accidentally killed her father, to whom Acro and his brother owed everything. As Sympathetic Murderers go he's high on the list.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, in the DLC case, Marlon Rimes is quite similar to Acro. His girlfriend died during a performance a year ago, and he believed Orla the orca whale was responsible, not knowing that 1) His girlfriend had a heart condition and 2) it was an entirely different orca. He tried to kill Orla by draining the water, but Jack Shipley, the owner of the aquarium and his boss, rushed out to save her, slipping and falling in the empty pool in the process despite Marlon's attempt to save him. Marlon tried to frame Orla for Jack's murder, but ultimately realized the truth of things and had this reaction. Thankfully, after it's pointed out that he tried to save her, he decides to make amends, however long it takes.
  • Archer from Fate/stay night as revealed in UBW route. He is trying to kill Shirou, himself from past, because he wants to prevent him making a pact with world to protect people, because it'll only make him one who kills some to save many.
  • One of the extended bad endings in the PS2 version of School Days has Kotonoha murder Sekai in cold blood and then offer herself to Makoto, who was watching. Makoto's horrified reaction causes Kotonoha to realize what she has done, and she breaks down in tears.
  • In Sunrider Mask of Arcadius, Icari Isidolde tries to convince Captain Kayto Shields to let PACT forces destroy a civilian freighter carrying Alliance diplomats in order to spark a war. Whether Shields abandons the freighternote  or defends itnote , Icari experiences this trope when she looks through one of the ship’s portholes and sees a terrified little girl staring back at her. It hits Icari especially hard, as she herself was orphaned as a child when a PACT patrol blew up her family’s starship.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): What Have I Done


Castlevania (2017)

Dracula realizes the monster he has become and that Lisa would not want him to hurt their son.

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