Guilt vs. Shame

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Guilt and shame. It’s something we’ve all dealt with numerous times in our lives. I’m sure we’ll soon meet again.
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Photo Credit: RodrigoFavera via Compfight cc

Is there a difference between guilt and shame? According to shame researcher Brene Brown, the answer to that question is yes. I agree.

Let’s break it down thanks to Mrs. Brown. (Okay, I just wrote the beginning of a rap song there, in case you didn’t notice.)

Guilt = I did something bad.
Shame = I am bad.

Here are a few examples of guilt vs. shame:

Example 1: Overreating

You’ve struggled with food all of your life. You sit down for dinner and eat some leftover spaghetti from the night before. You’re bored. You’re lonely, so within a few minutes of finishing your dinner you rummage through the pantry until you find something else to snack on. Perhaps some crackers or a Pop-Tart. You’re full, you think.

Now the aftermath sets in.

I shouldn’t have done that. I’m such a loser. I’m always going to be fat because I can’t control myself for five minutes. There’s no hope for me. 

Sound familiar? It certainly does to me.

Guilt = I didn’t stop eating when I was full.
Shame = I’m a pig. There’s not hope for me.

Example 2: Marriage

Your husband comes home from a long day of work and has looked forward to your delicious cooking all day long. You, too, had a hard day and realize as you pull into the driveway you forgot to lay the chicken out. There’s not time to prepare now. A frozen pizza it is. He walks into the kitchen with a disappointing look on his face.

The aftermath sets in and your thoughts go wild.

Oh great, I screwed up again! I’m such a horrible wife. I’ll never be good enough for him. I can’t even cook a decent meal for my husband. 

Guilt = I forgot to lay out the chicken to make his favorite meal.
Shame = I don’t know why I even bother. I’ll never make a good wife.

I could give a wide variety of examples, but I think you get the point.

Here’s the takeaway:

Shame is not from God. Never has been. Never will be. (Tweet that)

So you screwed up and ate more than you should. Allow that guilt to prompt you into repentance. The gracious God who created you and loves you wants to lavish you with His grace. Allow Him to give you that gift.

You forgot to lay out dinner. I bet it won’t be the last time. Smile at your husband, admit you forgot and enjoy your pizza with a nice glass of wine and a Netflix movie. You’ll laugh about it later, if you allow yourself to.

Here’s what God says about shame,

Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. – Psalm 34:5

You, my friend are radiant. Embrace it.

What truth do you tell yourself when shame tries to take over? Share in the comments. 

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  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Shame is condemnation. I tell myself that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1. Do I always believe it? No. That’s why I have to repeat things often.

    Good post, Sundi Jo.

    • http://www.sundijo.com/ Sundi Jo Graham

      Yes, Anne.. I have to repeat Scripture outloud frequently. The sword of the Spirit!