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Ivan kills his son 9441

Ivan the Terrible has just murdered his son in the heat of the moment. [ Look at his eyes. Look at them.

"The awful daring of a moment's surrender

which an age of prudence can never retract."

Well-intentioned but misguided character -- very likely a Tragic Hero or Anti-Villain-- comes 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 Super-Powered Evil Side.

Sometimes followed by Must Make Amends.

Compare These Hands Have Killed, which can occur even the first time the character has killed, even justifiably.

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?. 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. May be the result of an all too successful Pygmalion Plot to Teach Him Anger.

Contrast I Did What I Had to Do, Be All My Sins Remembered, and I Regret Nothing.

Examples of My God, What Have I Done? include:

Categories with Their Own Pages

Comic Books

  • Uncanny X-Men #150 gives Magneto a moment of this when he nearly kills Kitty Pryde in anger; he realizes he's become just like the Nazis that killed his family, and--for a span of almost a decade's worth of issues, at least--reconsiders his villainous career.
    • In Astonishing X Men, the team is attacked by one of the giant Sentinels that murdered the population of Genosha. Kitty defeats it by kicking it up to full sentience. Suddenly capable of comprehending what mass murder is, with a machine's ability to actually evaluate all those deaths individually rather than just as a vague statistic, it suffers a Villainous BSOD and flies away in horrified remorse.
  • In his origin in Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man has a classic one - Tears of Remorse and all - when he recognizes the burglar who murdered his uncle as the criminal he allowed to escape a page earlier.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Norman Osborn accidentally kills his son while in his crazy goblin form. When he changes back he has one of these and asks a nearby SHIELD Agent to kill him.
  • JLA #15, the final issue of "Rock of Ages": In a Crowning Moment of Awesome, in order to stop The Joker, who has the title reality-warping artifact, from wreaking colossal global havoc, the Martian Manhunter uses his telepathic powers to make the Joker temporarily sane. The Joker says "What have I been doing with my life?... I've been insane... Oh my god. What have I done?" It doesn't last.
  • The Old Man Logan storyline in the Wolverine comic is set in an alternate Marvel future in which the villains teamed up and successfully annihilated nearly all the superheroes. In a flashback, we see how the X-Men were done in: Wolverine and Jubilee are doing monitor duty when dozens of supervillains break in, intent on killing everybody. Wolverine meets all of them with deadly force in the inimitable Wolverine style. Just after he offs the last one -- Bullseye -- he turns into a dying Jubilee. Mysterio had set up an illusion, and Wolverine has just murdered all the X-Men, along with the mutant schoolchildren and staff.
  • This is Magog's reaction in Kingdom Come after he accidentally causes the destruction of Kansas.
  • It's Science With Dr Radium contained an "Ask Dr Radium" section on the fan mail page. One reader wrote in, asking "My God, What have I done?" Dr. Radium replied, "Um, you haven't given me much to go on. All I can tell you is that I've alerted the authorities, and hopefully they'll arrive soon."
  • Main character Matty Roth has this reaction in DMZ when he orders his private security force to chase and kill a group of soldiers who just gave him a crippling beatdown, (despite pleas not to do this) and he hears that his security people killed a group of Innocent Bystanders instead.
  • In Runaways, though in a very light manner: after Chase nearly gets Killed Off for Real because of drowning, when the team storms the Marine Vivarium, and Molly and Karolina argue about which way was correct to resurrect him. Fortunately, Gert followed Molly's advice, leaving Karolina pondering about what she nearly caused. Though that lasts about 2 seconds (Angst? What Angst? ?).
  • During Final Crisis, when Superman and Mandrakk have their first battle, Zillo Valla tries to give Supes advice from the sidelines. Mandrakk kills her to shut her up, then realizes in horror who she was: his former lover. However, after a second of grief, he blames Superman for his mistake and keeps attacking.
  • Prickly City: Electing Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, to the Senate.


  • In the first issue of Crystar Crystal Warrior. when Moltar has been manipulated into stabbing his brother Crystar and (wrongly) believes he has killed him, he cries "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" A few scenes later, when his actions lead to him and his followers being turned into monsters (as they will remain for the rest of the series), he has a single Beat Panel of blank horror as it all sinks in... and then composes himself and loudly embraces this fate, for the benefit of his followers if nothing else. Moltar remains a rather reluctant Big Bad through the whole series' run, deeply unhappy about what his actions have made him.
  • In Invincible, the titular character reacts this way after accepting An Offer You Can't Refuse, even though it was the only way to avoid an Earthshattering Kaboom. So when he says the trope's title out loud, the character making the offer responds "You have saved the lives of every living thing on this planet".

Fan Fiction

  • Katara has one of these in the Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic The Chong Sheng Trilogy, after going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when Jet is tortured and murdered in cold blood right in front of her. She uses said cold blood to literally rip apart anyone wearing Fire Nation armor, even the ones surrendering or running for their lives. It results in a Heroic BSOD that nearly drives her to suicide.
  • In a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic, Blast to the Past Princess Elise managed to prevent the Metarex from changing the past, (without Eggman, they'd have no competition, and most likely none of the events of the Sonic games would have never happened) but latter finds out - much to her shock and disgust - that she was the one caused the events that started it all, something that was just as bad when Sonic was killed because of "That damned demon within her." Silver and Blaze managed to convince her that Sonic played an important factor in everyone's lives, almost the same way that Eilse convinced him.
  • In the Axis Powers Hetalia doujinshi Besame Mucho, Spain gets one of these (quoting the trope name included) when standing in front of a destroyed house in a village his army just slaugtered. He is passing by when he sees a dead child's arm peeking out of a pile of wreck, and it makes him remember about Romano. Something was in my eye when he says that they just killed people, who were the same as him or little Romano. His companion's answer? "You are wrong. You are not human.". Tear Jerker, indeed.
  • Also in Axis Powers Hetalia, this is lampshaded by an authoress in the notes of the first chapter of her intense FACE bondage-dominance foursome. Repeat, the /first/ chapter.
  • This shows up in two different ways in the Neon Genesis Evangelion post-Third Impact fanfic Scar Tissue:
    • Asuka, who has been physically and sexually brutalizing Shinji for months, has minor moments of this whenever her temper finally abates, then has a massive moment of this coupled with Villainous Breakdown when she finally beats Shinji badly enough to nearly kill him. The fic starts after this moment; when it's not filling in backstory, it's detailing her attempts to atone for her actions.
    • Shinji, on the other hand, blames himself for everything Asuka has done to him, seeing his actions during the canon story (especially the hospital scene in Eo E) as so unforgivable that he can justify her abuse as karmic retribution.
  • In yet another Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction 'Let me be Your Savior' Romano/Lovino has one after stumbling across his brother (Italy/Feliciano) after Romano/Lovino had violently raped him crying, and it finally hits him that what he's been doing is wrong. This scene is a nice breakthrough, seeing as Romano/Lovino had seemed to cross Moral Event Horizon before.
  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic After The Gala shows this as Fluttershy's reaction to her explosive display of anger at the Gala. She's outright horrified by what she did and left a sobbing wreck. Her friends console her, though, and manage to get her out of her Heroic BSOD both by their forgiveness and Celestia revealing everyone was ok and it wasn't entirely her fault (the animals were rather wild to begin with and Celestia apologises for not warning her beforehand).
    • A similar thing occurs in chapter 10 of Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. Fluttershy saved Cloud Kicker's life, but believes her actions partially led Razor's death. She utters the actual quote (without the "My God" part) and until her friends comfort her later on, along with Princess Celestia stating that Razor died in the explosion caused by The Burning Talon's overheating, she is reduced to crying and blaming herself.
  • Past Sins: Celestia has several lines of this during Luna's What the Hell, Hero? speech.

  "I do not need to be told the heinous nature of my actions!"


  • In the final book of the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon uses a non-verbal spell in order to defeat Galbatorix. Galbatorix holds both Eragon and his half-brother Murthag captured, using magic, and prevents them from using the ancient language. The spell Eragon then uses literarly makes Galbatorix realise what he has done, by telepathicly giving him the viewpoint of the situation that Eragon sees.
    • During the darker part of his lifetime Galbatorix destroyed the entire order of Dragonriders. He has killed every last dragon except for Shruikan (his own) and three dragoneggs and later revealed Glaedr, an Elderdragon hidden by the elves... He gets killed in the third book though. He conquered Alagaësia and formed his evil empire, although that's not as bad as the fact that he almost whiped out an entire species.
  • Probably the earliest ever variation is Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, to himself: "Wretch, what hast thou done?"
  • Cassie has one of these way too many times to count in Animorphs. "The Departure" is one, where she comes down hard on herself after tearing out the throat of a Hork-Bajir controller.
    • Tobias has a few of them in his first few weeks as a hawk, when he's getting used to having to hunt to survive.
    • Also, Ax, in the aftermath of his threat to bomb the Yeerk Pool in "The Deception".
    • And Erek, after he uses the Chee crystal to reprogram himself and goes Badass Automaton to thrash a bunch of controllers and save the team.
  • The Stand by Stephen King: Harold, after he leaves Boulder post-explosion and crashes in the middle of the desert.
    • Nadine too, after she's pregnant with Flagg's baby-she has one so hard that she throws herself out of a high-rise window to kill herself and the baby.
  • Charles Dickens wasn't averse to this sort of twist. In Great Expectations, the malignant Miss Havisham gives us the following line: '"O!" she cried, despairingly. "What have I done! What have I done!"'
  • The Assassins of Tamurin: This is Lale's reaction after she kills her would-be mugger/rapist. What stresses her out is that she didn't kill him simply in self-defense but because she was excited to put her training to the test.
  • JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Boromir's moment, when he realizes how badly he screwed up by attempting to take the Ring from Frodo, leads directly to his Redemption Equals Death.
    • The Steward's family is big on these moments. Denethor has another when his younger son, Faramir, is brought back dying after being wounded in a pointless battle which Denethor sent him into.
  • This trope also turns up in JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion. Turin has this reaction after he kills Beleg and Brandir. He kills himself after the second one. His father Hurin has a similar reaction when he realises his attempts to avenge his family have only helped Morgoth. He too kills himself. Maedhros has one when his attempt to get the Silmarils from King Dior leads to the deaths of Dior's two young sons, and he and his brother Maglor have an epic one later when they realise that all the evil they committed in the pursuit of the Silmarils was for nothing because, after all the evils they've committed in search of the Silmarils, the holy jewels burn them.. Maedhros then kills himself while Maglor spends the rest of time Wandering the Earth singing laments.
  • Jo Walton's Ha'penny: Inspector Carmichael, after saving Hitler's life.
  • In Flag in Exile, Honor Harrington is attacked by an assassin who sees her as a corrupting agent of Satan... but the beloved leader of his church takes the bullet for her. Horrified, he drops the gun and falls to his knees: "My God, my God--what have You let me do?"
  • Amuro Ray again in the Mobile Suit Gundam novel; this is however repeated later by the greenhorn Zeon pilot and Char's wingman, Lt. (jg) Leroy Gilliam after one-shotting the Gundam and killing Amuro in a case of (just at that point) friendly fire from his Rick Dom.
  • The end of Ender's Game sees Ender discovering that the simulations he and his team mates had run in Command School weren't simulations but ansible transmissions: the ships he sacrificed to win had contained real, living soldiers, as had the enemy ships he annihilated, and by destroying what he thought was a simulation of the enemy home planet, he had actually done just that and committed xenocide without knowing it.
    • The buggers get this too in the backstory when they, a hive minded species that places no value on the mindless drones used to fight wars, discovered that each and every human being they killed during their two wars with humanity was as much an individual as the bugger queens.
  • In the book of Daniel, chapter 6, Darius, having taken over Babylon, is convinced to sign a decree that no one should petition any god or man other than the king for the next thirty days would be thrown into the den of lions. Daniel, who was the unspoken (at least to the king) target of the decree, heard about it, but continued to pray without making an attempt to hide it. The phrase is not recorded to have been said (it may have been "My gods," for all we know), but it does say he was "sore displeased with himself", and he tried to figure out a loophole or something until the architects of the decree reminded him that he couldn't change what he signed into law. (Of course, the lions end up not harming Daniel at all, and the king even said before they closed up the den that that would be the turnout, but the idea stands.)
  • Arguably Judas Iscariot's reaction after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He later hung himself or threw himself off a cliff out of guilt.
    • Judas really shouldn't beat himself up. After all, without the crucifixion there'd be no resurrection, and do you think Jesus didn't know that?
      • Peter betrayed Jesus too In a different way. However Judas never came back to seek forgiveness.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40000 novel Deus Sanguinius, Arkio's first words (after "Brother") when he is Dying as Yourself. He is deeply moved by Rafen's Manly Tears, and while quite certain of his own damnation, begs Rafen's forgiveness.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy In Flames, after Aximand kills Torgaddon, he sobs, asks what they did, and speaks of how they had been their brothers. Abaddon (who merely thinks Was It Really Worth It?) thinks he needs to be watched.
    • In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, Fulgrim's first words after he killed Ferrus Manus, were "Throne save me, what have I done?". His sword lets him realize the depths of his crime, and that his view of Ferrus Manus had been formed by spiteful misinterpretation of his deeds.
  • In Moby Dick, Ahab has a moment like this when the Pequod sinks with Starbuck aboard. Starbuck was a good man, the only man on the ship who never let himself be sucked into Ahab's mad quest or cult of personality, and therefore the only one who manifestly did not deserve such a horrible fate. Ahab himself dies moments afterward.
  • In The Dark Elf Trilogy (the second book, Exile), Drizzt ponders on this when he starts to realize that living on the run all the time, constantly paranoid, has caused him to start to lose his humanity, especially after cutting off his sister's fingers and nearly killing his brother; however, it isn't until Gwehywvar looks him in the eye that he starts to realize it and tries to find ways to regain said humanity... or elfmanity.
  • In Death Star, MCPO Tenn Graneet, chief gunner for the superlaser, is hit with the enormity of what he has done, and when he is called to fire on Yavin 4, desperately stalls for time.

 Graneet: Stand by. Stand by.

  • The Dale Brown novel Act of War has Kelsey quite distraught after she realises that she had unwittingly ordered Carl Bolton to his death.
    • Edge of Battle has a US Army Humongous Mecha mobbed by rioters at a detention camp for illegal immigrants ("Jumping the shark"? Your Mileage May Vary) and reflexively responding with predictably horrific results. When he comes back to his senses the mecha's pilot calmly and methodically climbs down from his vehicle, picks up the first available firearm and puts a bullet through his head.
  • In Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, after Harry, panicking and about to be Crucio-ed by Draco, unwittingly tries out his new "Sectumsempra" spell for the first time in the bathroom. The result is Draco being slashed to bits. Whoops.
    • Also Severus Snape, after he realizes his actions have inadvertently sentenced a woman he loves to death. Whoops again.
    • And in the film version of Goblet of Fire, when Harry doesn't resurface from the Hogwarts Lake for a minute or so after being given his underwater breathing apparatus (Gillyweed), Neville gasps, "Oh my God- I've killed Harry Potter!" Harry then promptly does a spectacular backflip out of the water, making everybody know he's quite alright.
    • Ginny Weasley's attempt to destroy Riddle's diary in Chamber of Secrets was (probably) a reaction to this trope. In any case, she was in full mode of this trope after being saved by Harry at the end. Poor Ginny. It must be... devastating doesn't even describe it... for an eleven-year-old to realize her actions have very nearly caused the deaths of half her friends and her crush. Maybe that's why she was so sympathetic to Harry after the "Sectumsempra" incident.
    • Ariana's death - possibly at his own hands - was this for Dumbledore.
  • In Cry Mercy, the third volume of Toni Andrews's "Mercy Hollings" series, the title character confronts her adoptive parents in order to seek answers about her mysterious origins and troubled childhood. Throughout the series, she has expressed a great deal of anger towards her adoptive parents for dissolving the adoption and giving her back as a ward of the state at the age of twelve, which led her to spend her teenage years in a series of unhappy foster homes. She believes they abandoned her because they couldn't deal with the fact that she was a psychic with the power of Compelling Voice. However, her former adoptive mother reveals that although her adoptive parents feared her powers and found her difficult to deal with, they cared about her and didn't intend to give her up until she used her Compelling Voice power to make them do so by telling them "Get out of my life and leave me alone!" in a fit of adolescent rebellion. She had repressed the memories of what had really happened, and realizes later that she is at least partly responsible for the problems that have made her miserable all her life. Mercy has another moment like this later on when trying to get an armed gunman to put down his weapon and release his hostage. She does not have perfect control of her power, and when he fails to respond at first she loses her temper and thinks, "Goddammit, why don't you just blow your own brains out?!". Her anger makes her powers kick in and she has the man's death on her conscience, although she saves the hostage.
  • Warrior Cats: Lionblaze does this a lot in the latter half of Power of Three, usually after he loses control of himself, or during one of his homicidal Nightmare Dreams.
  • The Poisonwood Bible: Nathan, after Ruth May dies unbaptized due to his desire for a dramatic conversion of the village.
  • In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim strikes a little girl for not listening to him when he told her to close the door. It turns out she couldn't listen at all. She was deaf.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand has one when he almost kills his father during a heated argument in The Gathering Storm. Quite a few of his friends have been telling him in book after book that he's going too far in his actions and losing it, but it doesn't sink in until this confrontation.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Helion tells Phaethon his origin: he had been a character in a scenario who destroyed a planet. His My God, What Have I Done? reaction caused him to brood over questions of existence, and the brooding caused him to become a self-aware personality, no longer just a character.
  • In Aaron Allston's Galatea in 2-D, the hero tortures one of the villain's mooks to try to get information from another. He slackens off without getting everything he wanted, realizing that she didn't know anything and that he was invoking What Measure Is a Mook?. That thought horrifies him -- just because they were two paintings who came to life, and whom the villain had sent to kill him didn't mean torturing them was all right. In the end, the villain is killed, but the hero tells the mooks that if they stay out of his way, he won't bother them.
  • Appears near the end of Jean De Florette for Papet. He discovers that Jean, the man who he had ruined in the first part of the duology, was actually his son. Florette hadn't rejected him, as he thought, but was pregnant and had tried to move on when he didn't respond to her letter (a letter he obviously never received). Watching the look on Papet's face when this fact sinks in will quickly show the viewer why this movie launched Yves Montand to worldwide critical acclaim.
    • Actually this comes at the end of Manon Des Sources, if you want to be picky. The ending of Jean De Florette is more The Bad Guy Wins.
  • "Almighty God! Enough! Enough!"
  • CS Lewis observed that Jane Austen loves to have characters suffer a dramatic, emotionally devastating disillusionment where they realize how blind and misguided they've been about a certain topic:
    • Northanger Abbey: Catherine Moreland experiences this trope when she realizes This Is Reality, and she's been foolish to view the world and people through the lens of Gothic fiction.
    • Sense and Sensibility: Marianne experiences this trope when she regrets the excess of Emo Wangst that almost killed her.
    • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth's turn comes when she reads Mr. Darcy's letter and realizes how flawed her judgment of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham has been and that she herself is guilty in this area of the pride and vanity she so abhors.
    • Mansfield Park: Sir Thomas (the heroine's uncle) deeply regrets how he raised his daughters to be spoiled, vain, Brainless Beauties and what a stern, cold father he was when he sees the effects such an education has had on them.
    • Emma: Emma is horrified over the mischief and pain her matchmaking efforts cause.
    • Persuasion provides a subversion (in the correct use of the term): Near the beginning, Anne looks back with regret on breaking her engagement to Captain Wentworth, but the book ends with her realizing she was wrong and deciding I Regret Nothing. Captain Wentworth himself plays it straight when he realizes what a mistake he made never coming back to ask Anne to marry him again after he began to make his fortune.
  • Non-lethal/non-romantic example: A widower-turned-priest in the Brother Cadfael series spent an entire novel trying to marry off his daughter to a man she didn't even like, because he thought that having her around would hinder his advancement in the clergy. Eventually she runs off to Dublin with a Danish youth to escape the Arranged Marriage; hearing this, her father contentedly proclaims that he'll never see her again ... and then pauses, and says it again in tones of grief, as the belated realization that he'd loved and will miss her hits home.
  • Susan's aunt from Wizard And Glass may have died of this trope, as it's speculated that her fatal heart attack occurs when she comes out of her enraged trance and realizes that she's just gotten her innocent, and pregnant, niece burned at the stake.
  • In Over the Wine Dark Sea Sostratos tells Menedemos a story of a Pancrationist(one of the nastiest combat sports invented) in Athens who kills his opponent (a very easy thing to do in Pancration) and goes mad with rage because of it.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, Fenise asks "What have I done?" as she realizes why she won't kill Thalric.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Miranda leads a boat that is pursuing hers on a route that ends with his crashing and dying. In Prospero In Hell, she learns he wasn't an enemy. Nearly has Tears of Remorse.
  • Discworld: Carrot has one of these moments in Men At Arms. He spends the night with Angua, and wakes to find a large wolf in the room (she's a werewolf). She runs away, and shortly after Carrot finds out exactly what just happened, he realizes that the first thing he did when he saw "the wolf" was reach for his sword.
  • Jean Valjean of Les Misérables has a Heroic Blue Screen of Death based on this trope after he robbed a child. The robbing happened right after his encounter with Bishop Myriel, who gave him a second chance at freedom after Valjean betrayed the Bishop's trust and robbed from him. The combination of these two events cause a guilt trip several pages long.
  • Tsion Ben-Judah's reaction in in the Left Behind book Desecration when he realizes he has given away the location of where the Israeli Jews would flee to according to what the Book of Revelation says about the matter (the deserted city of Petra), fearing that he has messed up God's plan. He gets some reassurance from one of the Tribulation Force members that God may have intended for Tsion to let slip the location of where the Jews would flee to in order to lure Nicolae Carpathia's forces into a trap God has set up for them, which is all according to the Word of God.
  • In Septimus Heap, Marcia has this reaction after she accidentally Banishes Alther to the Darke Halls in Darke.
  • Elizabeth Bathory goes through this in Count and Countess when she realizes bathing in blood is not curing her epilepsy, and she has been killing young girls for no reason at all.
  • Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls has its vengeance-obsessed hero break free of his island prison and return to Britain to pursue a drawn-out violent campaign against those whom he sees responsible. After various horrific killings, he looks forward to reuniting with his college sweetheart. But she knows what he's done. The close of the book has him voluntarily returning to the prison he escaped, in all likelihood to stay there until he dies.
  • The concentration camp commander in The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas. Losing your son because of his naivete in regards to the camp you commanded can't be a good experience for anyone.
  • Rick Deckard, the protagonist of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, is a Bounty Hunter tasked with killing androids who are posing as humans. He gets one of these moments midway through the book, after eliminating an android who had been working as an opera singer, and had earlier moved him with a song. He is ashamed that he has destroyed something beautiful and, on another level, worried about what this newfound empathy for his prey says about him.
  • John realizes too late that leading his people to war was entirely the wrong thing to do in Dirge for Prester John. They are unable to grasp the concept of war, or even the death that accompanies it, and treat it almost like a kind of game. This ends tragically.

Live-Action TV

  • Cheers. Carla once asked Frasier: "When you and Lilith wake up in the morning, which one of you is the first to scream, 'My God, what have I done?!'"
    • In another episode, this is essentially Fraiser's reaction upon fully realizing that he has successfully launched Woody Boyd's political career. (Cue visions of atomic fireballs.)
  • On Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Faith does this twice. First when she accidentally kills Alan Finch, screaming repeatedly "I didn't know!", and when she remembers what she did to Wesley and Buffy.
    • This is also plainly evident in Willow's expression in "Once More With Feeling" when Buffy lets the Scoobies know that when they brought her back to life they pulled her out of Heaven.
    • Spike after the Attempted Rape in "Seeing Red". In a rather disturbing take on the trope, he seemed almost as distressed about his inability to go through with the act as he was by the fact he attempted it at all.

 Spike: "What have I done? ... Why didn't I do it?"

    • Angel after the gypsy curse personifies this trope. Without a soul he was a Complete Monster, and he now believes he has to atone for what he has done.
  • On the Angel end is Gunn's epic version of this after his part in Fred's death.'
    • And Wes's equally epic one after he went literally Ax Crazy in "Billy". He was under a spell, but it didn't matter, he still hated himself.
    • Wes also had one after he shot what he thought was his father in "Lineage".
  • Face's expression after he pushes Murdock to the ground during their fight in Family Reunion borders on this. It's kind of a combination "What did I just do?" and confusion over the fact that Murdock doesn't seem the least bit angry with him for doing it.
  • Arrested Development uses a variation of this, "I've made a huge mistake". The phrase is used for comedic value, though. It was first said by GOB in "Key Decisions", and used by various characters afterwards, although it does remain primarily GOB's catchphrase, as he uses it at some point in most episodes.
  • In Babylon 5, Londo has several moments of serious regret as his schemes to restore Centauri power and glory play out... though that doesn't prevent him from going through with them until matters reach the point where Centauri Prime itself is at risk of annihilation.
    • The most heartbreaking instance may be when G'kar, his longtime nemesis, accepts an official apology from the Centauri Emperor for crimes committed against the Narns and approaches Londo in good spirits, extending a tentative hand of friendship. The problem: Londo made a deal with the Shadows only hours before that would result in another Narn-Centauri war. The look on Londo's face as he realizes his mistake is Tear Jerking.
    • Londo gets a lot of these moments. In the same episode, when the Centauri Emperor is on his deathbed, Londo tells him how the Centauri have attacked a Narn colony, kicking off a terrible war to further the Centauri's expansionist ambitions. The dying Emperor whispers his last words to Londo. Londo tells the other Centauri present that the Emperor told him that he would want them to continue, and to "carry my people back to the stars". But what did he really say?

 Londo: He said... That we are both damned.

    • Another instance of this happening to Londo (Seeing a pattern?) made it into latter season's credits, with Londo watching the orbital bombardment of the Narn Homeworld with outlawed Mass Drivers
    • Also in that show is Delenn upon watching Dukhat die after being attacked by Earth Alliance warships orders their immediate destruction. "NO MERCY!" When she calmed down she was horrified to learn that her actions had started a full-scale war.
    • Lennier had been struggling with his Subordinate Excuse for five seasons and finally gets his chance when Sheridan is accidentally trapped in a room filling with poisonous gas. He walks away, only to realize what he's doing moments later and runs back to help Sheridan, only to find him rescued by others.
    • In the second season finale, Captain Sheridan gets one after he orders the station's defense grid to open fire on a Centauri cruiser in self-defense, resulting in the cruiser's swift destruction. Definitely justified, in that every action he had taken had been with the intent of protecting lives, rather than taking them, only for him to be backed up against the wall and only left with the one option. He has a similar reaction midway through the third season when he does the same thing... to an Earth Alliance destroyer.
  • ICarly: Freddie utters this line as a group (What have WE done?) when the gang realized that bringing back Marta made Lewbert's life even worse.
    • Carly went into a breakdown of repentance in iChristmas when her wish turned her life into one she did not want.
    • Freddie again evokes a variation of this trope in the extended version of iSaved Your Life. After his break-up with Carly, his face changes expression while in the elevator and asks himself in regret, "What did I do?" Cue a zoom out of the Bushwell building as Freddie yells "WHAT DID I DO?!"
  • The Carpenter has one in the Sy Fy miniseries Alice, right after breaking through his memory block and remembering his past life as Alice's father, then realizing it's a problem that he's spent the last ten years of his life sucking emotion juice out of people. Redemption Equals Death
  • A 'My God, what have YOU done' moment happens at the end of the Peacekeeper Wars in Farscape. For four years people have been chasing John Crichton, killing, raping and attacking him and his friends for his wormhole knowledge, and he finally gives in and builds the thing to protect his wife and newborn child, and it turns out that wormhole weapons he's been telling everyone are horrific, galaxy destroying weapons that no one should ever have under any circumstances are actually just as bad as he always said they were. When he turns it on, even those most desperate to have them realise just how bad it is.
    • A quote is in order.

 (The wormhole weapon has been fired, and threatens to consume the entire universe.)

Crichton: Here's how it lays out. Are you listening Stahleek? Grayza? Wormhole weapons do not make peace. Wormhole weapons do not even make war. They make total destruction, annihilation, Armageddon. People make peace."

Chiana: Crichton, can you stop it?

Crichton: I don't know, Pip. Maybe it eats the whole galaxy, a monumental black hole, a giant whirling headstone marking the spot where we all used to live and play and slaughter the innocent.

Scorpius: (softly) This is insane, Crichton.

(John lets out a choked laugh.)

Crichton: God! Four years on and you're finally getting that!

    • A far more literal example is when Crichton has been forced to kill Aeryn while possessed by the Neural Clone. In this case, Crichton really does say "My God, what have I done?"
  • Jerry Seinfeld, after he gets engaged to Jeanie Steinem, a woman exactly like him...

 I think I may have made a big mistake! All of the sudden I realized what the problem is! I can't be with someone like me! I hate myself!

  • In Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Gaeta, during the mutiny on Galactica in season 4. After Gaeta helps Zarek take over Galactica, Gaeta insists on giving Admiral Adama a court-martial for conspiring with the Rebel Cylons. But when Zarek has the Quorum of Twelve gunned down for refusing to recognize him as President over Laura Roslin, Gaeta has a bit of a revelation while looking over their dead bodies.
    • Don't forget Caprica Six, who realizes after her first resurrection that the Destruction of the Colonies was a huge mistake, and spends the rest of the series trying to make up for it.
    • And Sharon (Boomer) who has a change of heart when she sees the experiments being done on Athena's daughter.
    • And Baltar, when he learns that he gave the Cylons information that helped them to kill billions of people.
    • Let's not forget the original My God, What Have I Done? moment, when Boomer finally 'regains consciousness' and sees the aftermath of her actions in the Season 1 finale. And the thematic continuation, the Season 4 premiere has Tigh experience a sort of 'waking nightmare' where he imagines the consequences of not owning up to the horrible truth of what he believes himself to be -- killing Adama -- and is horrified by the thought.
  • Doctor Who:

 "There should have been another way."

    • The Ninth Doctor had one of these in "The Parting of the Ways", when he forcibly sends Rose back to her own time in the TARDIS to protect her from the Daleks, only for her to absorb the power of the Time Vortex itself to get back and save him. He is truly distraught as it threatens to burn up her mind: "The power's gonna kill you, and it's my fault!" He sacrifices his Ninth life to save hers.
      • The Ninth Doctor also had one of these in the previous episode, Bad Wolf, where he looks down on a ruined Earth, populated by people who do nothing but watch horrific game shows and realises that it all happened due to his actions earlier in the series.
    • The Tenth Doctor had one in "The Waters of Mars". The Doctor saves people whose deaths will trigger the Golden Age of space exploration. He realises the impact of his interference when the key survivor realises what has happened and kills herself. The Doctor is subsequently horror-struck and has a massive Heel Realization.
    • The Eleventh Doctor had one in "The God Complex". A beast attacks his friends, and the Doctor thinks that it feeds on fear, so he tells them to focus on their faith. More people die much more rapidly after that, and Amy, his companion, is particularly affected. The Doctor realises that the monster doesn't feed on fear, but on faith. Since Amy basically sees him as a God, it's his love for him that will kill her. He breaks her faith with a Zero-Approval Gambit and unceremoniously drops her off at her house, planning to never speak to her again.
  • Parodied on Chappelle's Show: after one of the "Moments in the Life of Little Jon", Chappelle goes off on a tangent about the rapper's song "Get Low", which contains the lyrics "Aw skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet!" He said the following:

 Chappelle: I'm like, you can't say skeet on the radio! You know what's so dope about skeet? White people don't know what it means yet. When they figure it out, they'll be like My God, what have we DONE?!

  • Curtis from sci-fi drama Misfits can sporadically turn back time and re-play certain events from his past whenever he has one of these moments. Of course, it doesn't always work out for the best.
  • Kat from Power Rangers, when Rita's spell over her broke and she realized everything that she'd done to Kimberly.
    • In the first season Tommy has one immediately after Rita's spell is broken. It is probably Justified because he should be going into shock.
  • On Glee, when Sue goes into a deep depression, Will has a silent version of this, after a mild What the Hell, Hero? from Kurt.
  • In the 1998 Merlin series, Arthur has this reaction after Merlin calls him out for sleeping with Lady Marie, who was actually his half-sister. In the novelizations, this was taken up to full-blown Heroic BSOD that lasted for years.
  • In the Merlin series, Arthur goes into this trope after killing a captured rival king in "His Father's Son".
    • Later in the series Guinevere is given an enchanted bracelet that rekindles her feelings for Lancelot and leads her to make-out with him on the eve of her wedding to Arthur. They're caught, and the trope is played out in a truly heart-rending manner. Since Gwen never discovers that she was enchanted, she honestly has no idea why she betrayed Arthur - she didn't want to, and she can't understand why she did. The question: "what have I done?" is taken quite literally.
  • Michael from Prison Break wonders this for having (indirectly) lead to several deaths.
  • In an episode of Strong Medicine, a boy comes into the hospital after having a police officer use a Taser on him (They later find out that the only reason he reacted so badly was because of mercury poisoning.) Lu then spends the entire episode going into an Ideological Screed against the female cop. Later on, another boy comes into the ER, with the same cop. She mentioned that she was chasing him and reached for her Taser, but hesitated. Lu began to praise her (and herself) for this, but then the cop mentioned that, because she hesitated, the boy ran out into traffic and got hit by a car. It was especially notable because Lu was a textbook Jerk Sue and Canon Sue, so seeing her beliefs backfire was unique.
  • In Lost, Jack has this reaction after finally escaping from the island.
    • "We have to go back!"
  • In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, Torres utters this exact line when she realizes the race of robots she is helping were responsible for the extinction of their creators.
  • In The Closer, after several episodes of not feeling any remorse for facilitating a Vigilante Execution the previous season and not taking the victim's family's lawsuit against the department seriously, Brenda finally breaks down sobbing "What Have I Done?" at the end of season 7 episode 5, after everyone in her unit, plus Chief Pope, Commander Taylor, and her husband are all subpoenaed.
  • On the third-season finale of The Big Bang Theory, Howard and Raj make an account for Sheldon on an online dating site. Sheldon gets matched with Amy Farrah Fowler, who is almost exactly like him. Howard's reaction when he sees the two together: "Good God, what have we done?"
  • Forever Knight's Nick Knight has several of these over the course of the series, many in the flashbacks where he's struggling between needing to feed to survive and not wanting to kill.
  • Brass had one on CSI "Genetic Disorder", after spending the entire ep assuming Doc's wife really had cheated on him.
  • Duncan on Highlander after he killed Richie in a demon-induced haze
  • In Season 4 of Heroes, Samuel has this reaction after murdering his brother, Joseph. He may or may not quote this trope by name, as Robert Knepper's well-done emotional performance makes it unclear whether he's saying "What have I done", or if he's begging Joseph to "Hold on".
  • In the Charmed episode "We're Off to See the Wizard", Phoebe utters this almost verbatim after using pyrokinesis -- an upper-level demonic power -- on Cole's new personal assistant.
  • In Mash, Father Mulcahey once impulsively punched out an unruly patient who hit him first during triage, when any delays in the selection process can cost lives. While the rest of the staff agree he was entitled, Father Mulcahey was kicking himself for some time afterward.
    • Hawkeye has this in the episode "Fallen Idol." He sends Radar to Seoul to "sew a few wild oats", and Radar subsequently gets wounded by enemy fire en route.
    • In the episode "O.R.", Frank Burns complains out loud about the difficulty he's having removing a wounded GI's kidney. On a hunch, Trapper goes over to look at the patient's x-ray...and shows Frank that the guy only has one kidney. While Frank's borderline incompetence in surgery was usually Played for Laughs on the show, in this instance he's shown to be genuinely shaken at the realization that he could have killed the man through his carelessness.


 Freeman: "Oh no, this is not good! This is a bad experiment! We are bad people! Why did we usher forth the green apocalypse!?"

  • In Clear Skies 3, Hausmann does this during the final battle and surrenders rather than see more of his people killed.


  • Relient K's "Deathbed" lampshades this. The narrator is on his deathbed and recounting his life and all the mistakes he made. Including a shot-gun wedding, a love-less marriage that ended in divorce, a few kids that are implied to not see him much after said divorce, and a drinking problem that nearly kills him at one point. At the end Jesus appears to take the narrator to heaven because he repented heavily in his last few years.

   You cried "wolf" / the tears they soaked your fur / the blood dripped from your fangs. / You said "What have I done?"

 Reese Roper: You may notice that we are not rock stars, because you will hear these mess-ups and you will say to yourself, "My God, what have I done? What have I done?!" Oh, yes, you will.

  • "The Ballad Of You Know Who" by Richard Swift deserves mention, for using this phrase as the entire chorus of the song.
  • "Once In A Lifetime" by Talking Heads quotes the trope-naming phrase verbatim.
  • Iron Maiden's "Killers" contains the line "Oh god help me what have I done?". As the song points out "his blood lust defies all his needs", meaning that killing people is what turns him on. Even though he regrets it, he can't stop doing it.
  • Iron Savior, of (unsurprisingly,) Iron Savior has one of these, touched on in a few songs. "I've Been To Hell";

 Out of control in this deadly machine

Innocent victims are haunting my dreams

    • and "Made of Metal";

 Built and designed to obey, to keep Man alive

Oh I have failed... Now they struggle to survive

  • This is basically how the Handlebars video ends.
  • "Father of Death" by The Protomen.
    • The crowd murmurs this a couple of times in "Hope Rides Alone", although it seems to boil down to an Ignored Epiphany.
  • Filk Song singer Julia Ecklar's "Fallen Angel", repeats a variation of the phrase ("My God, is this the end?") while mourning the destruction of the original Enterprise in Star Trek III.
  • Similar to the "Handlebars" mention above: Zero Sum, the final song on Nine Inch Nails' album "Year Zero" is basically one last humble apology from humanity to everyone who was hurt by the dystopian government that was allowed to come into power in the first place. All while the world quietly ends in the background.

 Shame on us

For all we have done

And all we ever were

Just zeroes and ones...

  • Criminally Insane by Slayer.

 Disapprobation, but what have I done

I have yet only just begun

To take your fuckin' lives!

  • "Evaporated" by Ben Folds Five uses this line as the last line of the chorus - though it's never actually revealed what the singer actually has done.
  • Forgive Durden's musical, Razia's Shadow uses this trope in a near-verbatim manner at the conclusion of "Toba the Tura," when Ahrima comes to grips with his sin of destroying the lamps.

 What have I done?

Please make me your son

What have I become?

Destroyed all I love!

    • Also in Razia's Shadow, Pallis' reaction to stabbing Adakias, thus causing his brother's death. While having been aware of what he intended to do, his reaction is full of regret; "Brother, what have I done? My blade has pierced your side. This was never my intent, oh god, please stay alive!" And then "Please don't let your tired heart stop beating. You're bleeding. Just keep breathing!"
  • In the song "The Flame" by Chimera, the lasts lines are "Oh God…What Have I Done"
  • The protagonist of Genesis' "One for the Vine" becomes the murderous conquerer he (as a lowly foot soldier) had deserted at the beginning of the song. No, not just a very similar figure - the exact same one.
  • Child Ballad 54, "The Cherry-Tree Carol",

 "Oh, what have I done, Lord?

  • The Iced Earth song "Gettysburg(1863)-High Water Mark" features an example in the form of Robert E. Lee lamenting the Confederate army's loss at the battle, due to his plan.

 I look across this blood soaked land

All this blood is on my hands

God forgive me, please forgive me

It's all my fault, the blood is on my hands!

  • In the song "In the Glass" by OK Go, the protagonist immediately regrets his decision to become his reflection.

 But oh, what have I done? What have I done?

My God, what have I done?

  • Tarby wrote a 20 minute My Little Pony song based on the fanfic that shall not be named. Pinkie Pie goes through this after the first murder.
  • Though you'll never hear these words in The Wall, the songs "Hey You" and "Stop" serve this purpose. In the first instance, he realizes exactly what he's done by completing the wall; in the second, he's horrified by what he's turned into.
    • The Final Cut also features this line: "What have we done? Maggie [Thatcher], what have we done? What have we done to England?"


  • In Arthur Miller's All My Sons, protagonist Joe Keller knowingly sold defective aircraft parts to the Army during WWII, leading to the deaths of several pilots, but escaped punishment by pinning it on his partner. He'd succeeded in rationalizing it away by persuading himself that he did it for his family, but those rationalizations start to collapse in Act II when his younger son (who'd been a captain in the war) finds out and reacts in horror. He still manages to vociferously defend himself in Act III, however, until his son's fiancée produces a letter showing that his older son, presumed missing in the war, actually killed himself out of shame when Keller was initially accused. He says he'll go with his son to the police station, goes inside (offstage) to get his coat, and we hear a gun fire.
  • The Wizard of Oz has one at the end of Act 2 in Wicked when Glinda confronts him with the fact that the Wicked Witch he has successfully ordered murdered was actually his daughter.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd has one towards the end of the show upon realising he's just unknowingly killed his wife.
  • In Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas comes to this realization after he has given Jesus up to the high priests and seen him brutally flogged.
  • Oedipus Rex, when Oedipus realizes he...did exactly what fate expected him to do. Which makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • Antigone, when Creon has condemned his niece to death and driven her to suicide, which causes his son to commit suicide, which causes his wife to commit suicide. This is made worse by the fact that he had already gone back on his decision to kill her before he knew of her death.
  • In The Trachiniae, after Deianira sees the effect of her "love potion" (a centaur's hydra-poisoned blood, actually) on the scrap of cloth she used to smear Herakles' garment with, she starts to realize what is really going on and begins freaking out. When her son Hyllus arrives to blame her for killing dear old dad in the most painful way possible, she really loses it.
  • Jean Valjean's soliloquy after being saved by the Bishop in the musical adaptation of Les Misérables begins with almost exactly this line. "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?" Valjean goes on to explain that after a lifetime of being convinced that he was worthless and the world pitiless, he has met a man who is truly good and selfless, and robbed him, to receive no punishment.
    • A rather more poignant example comes from Javert's life being saved by Valjean. The cognitive dissonance of being saved by a person he previously thought to be a felon, and a cold-blooded criminal, is too much for him to live with.


  • Link from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. He pulls the Master Sword out of its pedestal, not knowing Ganondorf was using him to get into the Sacred Realm. Especially hits home when you visit what used to be Hyrule Castle. Link's expression can only be, "Oh my God, I did this."
  • Alexandra Roivas from Eternal Darkness, at the end of the game. After you defeat Pious Augustus, Alexandra finally realizes the ancient god she just released has the power to destroy all of humanity. Shocked, she kneels and says "What have I done!?". The Ancient God is then turned into Sealed Evil in a Can by Edward Roivas' spirit, after replacing two of the runes in the super-mega-huge spellcasting device. Except not really, because it's revealed through one hell of a Mind Screw that Mantorok has orchestrated events so that in three different iterations of reality a different Ancient was summoned each time, essentially meaning that all three were killed at the same time; not being subjected to the same rules of time and existence as us lowly mortals this could easily happen. Of course leaving Mantorok to fester for eternity, plotting his eventual escape.
  • Richter Belmont screams this once he's freed from being Brainwashed and Crazy, since he's inadvertently helped resurrect Dracula once again.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII, Dominico is said to be a descendant of one of the seven sages that sealed Rhapthorne away, and indeed, he appears to be a target of the possessed Jessica. However, it turns out that the ACTUAL descendant is Dominico's assistant David (who was Rhapthorne's real target), who Dominico had treated like absolute crap for no reason at all, and Dominico himself was a descendant of the sage's servant. When David is killed by Rhapthorne, who has now possessed Dominico's dog, Sir Leopold, Dominico discovered it had been his duty to protect David, and pulls this trope when he realized he failed that duty miserably.
  • Arguably, Niko Bellic in Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • In the 'good' ending of the demon path in Soul Nomad and The World Eaters, Gig gets the evil slapped out of him and reverts to his prior personality... With the first thing that strikes him is all the gruesome things he has been doing in the meantime.
  • Taro Namatame in Persona 4 goes through this after being told that he was endangering lives by throwing people into the TVs rather than saving them as he thought. Of course that is if you didn't choose to throw HIM into the TV as an unfair version of the Karmic Death.
  • Kratos, the protagonist of God of War, demonstrates this trope upon killing his wife and child while destroying a village; this motivates him to turn against his former master Ares. Whether or not he actually learns from the experience and becomes a better person for it is a matter of debate.
    • Happens again in God of War II. At the end when you're stabbing Zeus you accidently kill Athena. Kratos is distraught by this. Happens again in God of War III when Kratos gets so fucking pissed at Zeus he lets go of Pandora whom he was trying to save from getting destroyed from the flame.
  • Neku Sakuraba from The World Ends With You, when he realizes that not only was Megumi Kitaniji trying to redeem Shibuya from a the fate of Sodom and Gemorrah, defeating him has effectively doomed everyone to die.
  • Cecil and Kain, after unintentionally helping to destroy the village of Mist, in Final Fantasy IV.
  • Subverted with another "What have YOU done" in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, when Lucien Lachance reveals that you've been killing the wrong people.
  • Happens at the very first event of Fahrenheit (2005 video game), the main character, after coming to his sense, realized that he is holding a knife, blood dripping from his clothes, and a dead man lying right next to his feet, stabbed many wounds to the chest.
  • This is a subtext of the game Shadow of the Colossus. Any time the protagonist kills one of the Colossi the death scene is dramatic and sad to drive home the fact that you are the one invading and killing, and the Colossi were living their lives peacefully, bothering no one. Many people felt exactly My God, What Have I Done? after they killed the thirteenth Colossus, specifically: a majestic creature that doesn't attack, can barely defend itself, and doesn't even approach the player in any way.
  • Similar to Shadow of the Colossus, Far Cry 2 seems to be designed to eat away at the player until they realise just how many people they're butchering and what a monster they are, resulting in a My God, What am I doing? moment.
  • Kastor in Age of Mythology, after blindly following Krios's hidden plan of releasing the Titans.
  • Oichi from Sengoku Basara, after being driven insane by her husband's death and her brother Nobunaga's evil ways, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, killing her brother and all his subordinates. Afterwards, she briefly comes to her senses, realizes what she has done and bursts into tears... only to die when the roof caves in on her.
  • In the Ulduar raid of World of Warcraft, Algalon the Observer is sent by the Titans to "re-originate" the planet (read: destroy all organic life) in the event the corruption from the Old Gods got too severe - actually triggered by your earlier murder of one of the Titans' corrupted overseers. However, if your raid manages to defeat him, he has one of these moments, in which he laments just coldly following his orders without considering the lives of the people he was destroying.
  • In a more humorous example, in The Nameless Mod, Despot says this when he tells the player that he left Ghandaiah in charge instead of the far more competent King Kashue.
  • In Jet Force Gemini, King Jeff heads to planet Tawfret to give some more of his people the good news that Mizar's defeat may be at hand... only to see them getting rounded up into slave ships by Mizar's soldiers. He lets his emotions run out of control, and the resulting magical asskicking becomes decidedly not awesome when it zombifies the entire planet and most of the soldiers on it.
  • Charles Barkley's feelings toward the chaos dunk he performed that killed thousands if not millions and led to the genocide of b-ballers in Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden.
  • The Paragon Caridin in Dragon Age Origins sacrificed Dwarves to create Golems on the Anvil of the Void. He initially justified this with the increasingly desperate war against the Darkspawn and that he only used volunteers (who were unaware of the sheer agony involved). But when the King (the only one in Dwarven society whose opinion trumps a Paragon's) Jumped Off the Slippery Slope and sent casteless, criminals, and his political rivals to the Anvil and Caridin protested, the King had Caridin turned into a Golem by his own apprentices on the very Anvil he created. After experiencing the "hammer's blow" himself Caridin realized he had done something unforgivable and dedicated himself to ensuring that the Anvil could never be used again.
    • Can also happen with the Paragon Branka, who led everyone in her house to horrible deaths in the Deep Roads on her mad quest for the Anvil of the Void, and allowed the Darkspawn to rape some of the women and turn them into Broodmothers. If the Warden sides with her during the initial dialogue with Caridin, which leads to being forced to kill him, in the conversation with her after the fight she can be persuaded to see the Anvil for the abomination it is, and to see all of the pain, suffering, and damage her maniacal desire for it has caused. If successful, it will cause her being so overcome with guilt that it drives her to commit suicide by leaping into the lava.
  • Adrienne in Phantasmagoria didn't actually say the line, but her "What have I done?" moment happened when she realized that Don's possession was the direct result of her opening Carno's Magic Book and releasing the Demon at the beginning of the game. Oops.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin Solus was left guilt-ridden by his work in updating the Genophage to ensure that the Krogans maintain the same rate of reproduction. While he felt that what he did was necessary, it didn't mean he had to like it and forced himself to make anual trips to check on it since he felt that simply walking away would be wrong. In order to better atone, he became a doctor/borderline vigilante in the Omega space station.
    • Subverted, however: he says repeatedly that he would choose to do the same thing, and that he doesn't regret what he did. He felt it was necessary; however, he chooses to always remind himself of the price paid. But it's played straight in Mass Effect 3, where he comes to fully regret working on the genophage and decides to help cure it.
    • Two other Salarians involved in the project, Maelon Heplorn from the second game and Padok Wiks from the third, both eventually come to the conclusion that their work was unethical. Unfortunately, the former ends up falling even further down the slippery slope when he tries to reverse his handiwork.
    • Gavin Archer from the "Project Overlord" DLC eventually has this reaction to the experiments he did on his brother, to the point where he ends up quitting Cerberus because of it.
    • In Mass Effect 3, if you can make the Illusive Man realize that he's being indoctrinated by the Reapers, he'll shoot himself in the head.
    • Miranda Lawson is an interesting variation as her's is more, "My god, what did I ALMOST do?" Her hatred of her father comes from the fact that he tried to control her and her sister, make them slaves to do whatever he wanted them to do. She almost did this to Shepard, when she attempted to plant a control chip into his/her brain while bringing him/her back to life. By Mass Effect 3, she realizes this and feels unbearable guilt, telling Shepard how sorry she is for even considering it.
  • A close variant of this phrase serves as the opening tagline of Dark Fall: The Journal.
  • Amazed no one has mentioned Zero's epic meltdown in Mega Man X 4 after his defeat of Iris. "What am I fighting foooooooor?!?!?!"
  • In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire and Emerald, Maxie and/or Archie (depending on your version) come(s) to realize what he's brought upon the land when they use the Blue or Red Orb to awaken Groudon or Kyogre, respectively, as their intense sunlight or rain begins to spread throughout Hoenn (storywise, anyway, as weather effects were not seen in the overworld of places such as Littleroot Town during the Weather Trio crisis).
  • Admiral DuGalle, after he is tricked by Lt. Duran into killing his old friend Vice-Admiral Stukov, who reveals that Duran is a traitor with his dying words. DuGalle's guilt over this later leads him to commit suicide after the Zerg have obliterated the UED forces.
  • In World of Warcraft Cataclysm, Garrosh Hellscream has this reaction after realizing that Magatha Grimtotem had poisoned his blade, and that by killing Cairne, he played right into her plans.
  • Super Metroid even has a few of these moments. After fighting a big Metroid, it runs off in shame once it realizes Samus is it's adoptive mother from the start of the game.
    • Happens again the Crocomire, who suffers a nasty death hardly fitting it that can only make the player feel sorry for it. (It spends a good 10 seconds having its skin melted off in acid). Honestly, even the game designers felt the moment was worth a What the Hell, Hero?.
  • In Assassin's Creed 2, some of the lieutenants of Savonarola have this reaction after Ezio fatally wounds them.
  • Ryoji does this while explaining the Fall to S.E.E.S. in Persona 3, although in his case it's less "My God What Have I Done" than "My God What Am I Going To Do?"
  • Star Ocean 4: In the past Earth, Edge hands an energy source equal in power to a doomsday device to Earth military so they can prevent the future disaster which befalls Earth. This backfires.
  • Terra from Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep has this reaction after trying to stop Master Eraqus killing Ven, and taking it too far. Eraqus does it too when he calms down.. Then Xehanort finishes him off.
  • At the end of Etna Mode in DisgaeaAfternoonOfDarkness, Etna recovers the memories that Maederas stole from her, and the very first one that returns is her promise to King Kricheveskoy, the only person she's ever trusted and looked up to, to protect his son Laharl. This being Etna Mode, Etna's already killed Laharl. A Not-So-Heroic BSOD ensues.
  • Anders has this reaction in Dragon Age II right after he blows up the Chantry and sparks open conflict between Mages and Templars if he is a full rival. After the most recent patch, he can even be convinced to side with the Templars after realizing that he has pretty much become a true abomination to help mitigate the damage to Kirkwall.
  • In Tactics Ogre, some of the leaders' death quotes might invoke this to the player. You kill a person who seems to just be a named Mook...then an optional battle (If you wanna recruit one of the characters) has a woman who wants revenge because you killed her husband. After you beat her, she reveals she's pregnant. Another person laments that he won't be able to get medicine for his sick daughter.
    • The PSP version also has a wizard who fights you in chapter two who wants revenge on Denam. What for? A boss you fought in chapter one was his twin brother.
  • Raiden has a massive My God, What Have I Done? moment in Mortal Kombat 9, after he accidentally fries Liu Kang to death in self defense.
  • King Volechek in Golden Sun Dark Dawn has this moment. When he realizes the ancient tower he got the heroes to reactivate was really going to cause an eclipse that summoned hoards of monsters on half of the globe. Did we mention his kingdom was in the middle of it?
    • And in the game before that, The Lost Age, The Final Boss the heroes killed turns out to be Isaac's father and Felix and Jenna's parents. This causes Jenna to have a complete emotional breakdown, knowing that not only her parents are going to die soon, but she was the one who did the horrible deed. To be fair, the Wise One did this trick to test the resolve of the heroes and the Golden Sun event winds up reviving the parents. Even then, Jenna is still shaken up by the whole ordeal.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, Yggdrasil has a BSOD of the none-heroic variety when Martel asks him this very question.
  • Also, in Tales of the Abyss, when Luke realizes he's been tricked into murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Pretty much the rest of the game is affected by this moment.
  • A pretty common tradition in the Tales series it seems, as Tales of Vesperia has Estelle do this after driving Belius mad by healing her. It takes another character's self-muliation to drive her back into reality.
  • In Catherine, girlfriend Katherine suffers from this after the incident on day 8, frozen in place screaming.
  • Lara Croft in Tomb Raider Anniversary has this moment when she is forced to kill Larson, who held her at gunpoint. It was Lara's first human kill in her whole life.
  • Tyrann in Nie R goes through this in Endings C & D over his possession and corruption of Kaine. It motivates him to do a Heroic Sacrifice for her.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas DLC Old World Blues, it's possible to get Evilutionary Biologist Dr. Borous to feel intense guilt over his brutal experimentation of his loyal dog Gabe after you bring him his food dish. Of course, he quickly forces himself to suppress the feeling and goes back to his obsession with Science!

Visual Novels

  • Part of the meltdown of Acro in 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.
  • 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 Play Station 2 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.


 Tertaladrol: We're going to be sent to the dung mines of Guanolon IV, aren't we...

  • During the Great Outdoor Fight arc of Achewood, Ray is attacked by country-western singer Cody Travis, and retaliates by ripping his face off. In the following strip, he looks at his blood-soaked hands and vomits.
  • In Ask Axe Cop 15 after Axe Cop mistakenly kills a good guy.
  • Done (to a degree) in response to Internet Backlash about Sixx drugging Laura without her knowledge in Collar 6.
  • Bob and George After confessing. So to speak
  • The Sacrifice comic for the video game Left 4 Dead shows Zoey having this moment when she realizes what she did back home after the infection spread. While Zoey was visiting her parents at home, a common infected wanders into the room and attacks Zoey's mother, infecting her. Shortly after, her mother turns and attacks her father, forcing him to kill her. Believing that she is infected, Zoey's father asks her to kill him so that he won't turn. It isn't until 2 weeks later after she and her other survivor friends get taken by the military that she learns that her father wasn't going to turn at all, due to having a gene that makes them a carrier but immune, which she has inherited as well.
  • Sinfest's Monique learned that she may be responsible, in part, for the damnation of a million men.
  • Dominic Deegan: What have I done?
  • In Eight Bit Theater, White Mage has a moment of this trope after attempting to become evil
  • In Strays, when Feral realized he was trying to choke Meela. (He had pushed her out of the bed earlier. With this, he goes and sleeps in the corner.)
  • Pibgorn Pib. . . What have I done? (Why, lost Pib in the upper atmosphere when you need her help to save the earth.)
  • Vriska in Homestuck goes through this when she realizes that her actions have resulted in the deaths of most, if not all, of the people she ever considered friends.
  • Happens in Sluggy Freelance in a subtle manner when Torg realizes that he messed up the security computer systems and released a bunch of bad stuff. Torg was inside the No-Fun lab and blew up their server. This causes a bio-weapon mutagen to be released. This may or may not cause turn the entire dimension into a hell like realm full of demon like creatures
    • Occurs again later when Riff says that future Torg will do bad stuff like cause the Research and Development War or turn this dimension into hell. More like "what will I have done", but still.
  • In American Barbarian, Rich realizes what his pursuit of revenge did.
  • Panthera's Jason has developed a tendency to slip into this. To be fair to him, he talked his boss into giving his little sister the same shapeshifting powers he has himself... only for things to take a sudden turn for the worst when Ari reveals that he's the very man they have been trying to hunt down and attempts to kill them. The one who kills him off is Onca/Taylor, who utterly freaked out four days earlier at the very idea that her big brother might have killed a person. Ten days after that, they find out that some of the world's leading scientists have no idea how they're still alive and they're going to wither and die in less than thirty years. Cut to the North Korea story arc, where Gyeoknoho comes pretty damn close to finishing his sister off partially because this time, Jason has no idea how he's supposed to come up with a plan to eliminate it. Is it any wonder that Jason is skirting the edge of Heroic BSOD right now?
  • Part 1 of the Penny Arcade story arc Ripped From Today's Headlines has Tycho feeling bad for accidentally killing his wife.

Web Originals

 She flew back, bounced on the roof once, went over the side of the building bonelessly. Yelped when she hit the pavement in the alley. Yelped like a wounded puppy.

  • Oran from Broken Saints says this after he attacks his childhood friend Hassan in a cabin fever-induced madness.
  • This has a tendency to crop up in Survival of the Fittest, usually when a 'hero' character kills somebody. An example of this is Julie Mikan after killing Owen Fontaine, going into a Heroic BSOD simultaneously at the relisation that she has actually ended somebody's life.
  • Slightly subverted in the Gaia Online plot: 247 says the line after killing 013, but before he knows the full consequences of his action.
    • Played a bit more straight when the Jerkass Corrupt Corporate Executive William F. Drink finally sees the mass chaos for himself and realizes he should have listened to his son all those years ago about the chemical byproduct that trapped the ghosts in their graves and drove them insane.
  • In Dragonball Z Abridged, Dr. Briefs yells "WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE??" after Goku blasts himself into space on a ship Dr. Briefs built.
    • King Kai gets one too, after realizing that sending Goku home has resulted in him being all alone again. When Bubbles, Gregory and Bojack try to comfort him, he tells them to shut up.
  • In Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog, Villain Protagonist Dr. Horrible has one of these moments as he kneels over the body of his would-be Love Interest, Penny, the innocent victim of his exploding Death Ray. The closing song, "Everything You Ever", is both a celebration of his triumphant victory and a dirge for his lost hope.
  • The Nostalgia Critic is pretty broken up about shooting his childhood icon, Mary Poppins, when she didn't explain all the Plot Holes in Quest for Camelot.
    • He looked crushed in Kickassia right after he accidentally shoots Santa Christ.
  • She'd never admit it verbally, but The Nostalgia Chick draped her dead BFF's Star Trek shirt over a nearby chair in guilty memorial of the Kirk vs. Picard fight that got her killed.
  • Avatar: The Abridged Series- When Sokka rails against the Inventor, saying he's a traitor TO SCIENCE! because he is responsible for all of the "Steampunk Nonsense" in the Avatar world, the Inventor tries to defend his claim, saying that steampunk stuff could work and runs on scientific principles. Sokka cuts him off again, mentioning steam-powered jetskis. This leads to the Inventor having a Heroic BSOD while saying the trope word for word at the "horror" he has perpetrated against the world.
  • Ayla from the Whateley Universe has a bad case of this when after fighting a demon and being taken away, held and questioned by the anti-mutant police, he discovers that the MCO really do send mutants away to be dissected, studied and killed. Given that Ayla used to be Trevor Goodkind, a member of one of the world's richest and most powerful families, and that in some years he donated more to the MCO than some countries, he was indirectly sponsoring the murder of innocents. While a lot of his friends tell him that it's not his fault and he couldn't have known, the principal tells him that even though sponsoring a legal organisation isn't illegal, by her estimate, the MCO are guilty of 90% of the disappearances, and what happened to the other 10% of the children is probably even worse.
  • Played for Laughs in the "Cake" segment of the first asdfmovie.

Western Animation

  • Ben 10 has Tetrax assisting Vilgax in getting his hands on a superweapon. However, once he DOES get his hands on that superweapon, he decides to use it to blow up a planet. That particular planet happened to be HIS home planet. You can tell on the look on his face how shocked he was.
  • While Krusty the Klown has repeatedly shown himself to be depraved when he's off the set (such as eating condor omelettes), he's horrified when he discovers how awful things are at Kamp Krusty. He decides to make it up to the children to taking them to Mexico.
  • Dark Heart says this in Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation after discovering that, in a fit of blind rage, he's mortally wounded his only friend, Christie. Turns out he actually WASN'T simply using her.

 Dark Heart: What...have I... done?

Dark Heart: What...have I... done?

Real Life

  • The page image is of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible holding the body of his son, the Tsarevich (heir apparent) Ivan. The Tsar decided that his son's his pregnant wife was too immoderately dressed (or something), and the younger Ivan jumped in to defend her; in a fit of rage, the Tsar proceeded to beat down on his son with his scepter. Heavily. But when Tsar Ivan realized that his son was almost dead, he started kissing him and trying to stop the bleeding, crying, "May I be damned! I've killed my son! I've killed my son!". His son regained consciousness long enough to deliver some Tear Jerker last words, and then remained comatose until dying a few days later--during which his father remained awake for long hours praying constantly for a miracle.
  • Captain Robert Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, watched the city of Hiroshima disappear in an atomic blast. Some members of the crew would claim that Lewis was at first caught up in the moment and yelled, "My God, would you look at that sonofabitch go!", but after he calmed down, Lewis wrote in his log, "My God, what have we done?" (The rest of the crew maintained that they did what they had to do).
    • As he watched the first atomic test ever at the Trinity site:
I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, Scientific Director, Manhattan Project
    • Likewise:
Now we are all sons of bitches.
Kenneth Bainbridge, Trinity Test Director, Manhattan Project
    • On the topic of WW 2, the Marines having arrived on Okinawa, experienced no resistance from the Japanese. This had the marines extremely on edge, especially the first night since the Japanese were infamous for night attacks (especially of the Banzai Charge nature). Unfortunately that night, a convoy of Okinawan civilians were fleeing the Japanese. The Marines thinking it was a Banzai Charge... This trope was the reaction of the Marines.
  • Ashoka the Great, emperor of India in the 3rd century BC, is said to have uttered this line after a bloody military campaign and then converted to Buddhism and never waged war again. That's right, Older Than Feudalism.
  • Alfred Nobel developed dynamite in order to make the nitroglycerin used for mining, quarrying and construction safer to use. Instead it became widely employed as a weapon, to the point that a paper mistakenly published his obituary on the occasion of his brother Ludvig's death, with the title "The merchant of death is dead". His personal fortune at the time of his death was approximately 250 million dollars in today's money. He bequeathed 0.5% to his family, and the rest to the newly founded Nobel foundation. He also specified that race and nationality was not to be a factor in choosing recipients, which caused a major stir at the time. (The prize committee made good on this specification relatively quickly, giving the Literature Prize to Indian Rabindranath Tagore in 1914.)
  • Sociologist Robert Putnam was so horrified by the results of a study he performed that among other things suggested that racially diverse societies caused individuals to become more isolated that he almost didn't publish it. He did eventually. When criticized about witholding his findings he explained that he was terrified his work would be used by racist organizations to justify their hatred.
  • When the hysteria died down following the Salem witch trials, the people of Salem went straight to Psalm 51.
  • A classic sports example of this happened when Lawrence Taylor gruesomely (but inadvertently) broke Joe Theismann's leg. As soon as it happened, Taylor -- known then as a vicious defensive player and a bit of a trash-talker -- immediately and frantically called to the sidelines for the medical staff to come and help Theismann, knowing that he'd inflicted an exceptionally serious injury. Indeed, it ended Theismann's career.
  • A rather literal example is HMS Beagle captain Robert FitzRoy, who was a fundamentalist Christian creationist. He regretted being part of the Beagle expedition that led to Darwin publishing On The Origin Of Species, thereby indirectly contributing to the development of the theory of evolution, which contradicted The Bible's account of creation( though now it's thought to be one valid interpritation by some, including the Vatican). It may have contributed to the depression and anxiety later in life that ultimately led to him committing suicide.
  • A common reaction by people when they kill someone, especially the first time. The degree of trauma depends on a number of factors, such as group participation (squads, teams, etc), range (greater distance = more detachment), emotions and weapons used. Fire an artillery piece that makes some insurgents 25 miles away stop shooting? No biggie, it's not like anyone really knows if they're dead or not, and you were saving your guys, and you were just following orders. Knife some child soldier face to face as he screams for his mother? There is not enough booze in the world...
    • It's a YMMV reaction more than anything else; it is impossible to know how someone will react to killing beforehand. Some people BSOD, others find the experience intoxicating. Most people just feel a bit uncomfortable about it for a while but remain psychologically healthy.
  • Stephen King had one of these after he found out about the number of school shootings that had been linked to his novel Rage, in which a high school student snaps after being expelled from school, takes out a pistol, and then kills multiple people as well as hold several students hostage and is portrayed as a Sympathetic Murderer. Investigation of students who had started shootings in their schools revealed that several of them had copies of Rage in their possession. Stephen King then requested that Rage be taken out of print in an attempt to make up for it.
  • The story goes that General Launcelot Kiggell, Chief of General Staff in the British Army in World War One, saw the conditions at Passchendaele at the end of the battle, cried "My God, did we really send men to fight in that?" and burst into tears. Now considered to be anecdotal, as the higher-ups knew damn well what the conditions were but had legitimate military reasons for continuing. (Whether those reasons constituted justification for continuing is a matter for debate.)
  • First car crash anyone?
  • Many raiders who run in on people in their homes threatening the occupants and getting them to tell said raiders, for example, the password to the home safe, will hate having to do this to parents of kids (particularly if the kids are seeing the whole ordeal). There have even been cases in which robbers have turned themselves in due to their guilty conscience about how they tramutized a poor kid haunting them. Some raiders will even try and comfort the kids, if they have to.
  • A Real Life self-styled Evil Debt Collector quit the industry after he discovered that a woman he'd tried to collect from died in 9/11.
  • Oft experienced after a binge drinking session, especially with some of the more foul tasting beverages.
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