Friday, July 4, 2014

Shame vs. Guilt

In this post:  Guilt is natural - Shame is man-made - healthy communities - born innocent

Guilt is a feeling that I’ve done something bad and it encourages actions to be fixed.

Shame is a feeling that I’m a bad person and it discourages change because it is based on the lie that I’m bad and no choices will change that.

Guilt is a natural, God-given feeling.  It helps me know when I’m misaligned with God’s will.  It is conducive to repentance.  Actions can be fixed.  No one is perfect but if they keep trying, they will improve.

Shame is a man-made feeling.  God doesn’t use it, but humans do.  Humans create a power differential between themselves and other people when they want to keep them in a one-down relationship.

God is the perfect mentor.  He is interested in guiding and lifting his children up to a perfect state with him.  Humans in one-down relationships are not interested in equality.  Parents are naturally in a one-down relationship with their children but they can be mentors and lift their children up to maturity and eventual equality.  Parents or adults who seek to keep their children beneath them use shame, criticism and fear of abandonment.  This is a corruption of healthy relationships.

Shame doesn’t apply in healthy relationships.   In healthy relationships two or more people interact with each other in equality.  They are free to be themselves without fear of criticism or rejection.  Most people don’t get to choose their coworkers, their constituents or the people in their community so their only choice is to be adaptable.  We adapt to the bad in others and get along in spite of it.  Even the aspects of a person’s character that interfere with the flow can be compensated for in a healthy community.  That’s grace.  

Village courtesy SaiVin

It is a commonly held belief that we are born bad.  And some even believe there is nothing we can do because of the Fall to be good.  I think this idea ought to be flatly rejected.  It promotes Satan’s agenda to keep us all from reaching our potential.  I think we are born innocent.  Throughout our lives we choose either good or evil and at the end of our lives we reap what we have sown.

It was after reading Daring Greatly that I began to think about the difference between shame and guilt.  And after the last couple posts, I felt I ought to at least define the two terms.  

Challenge:  See your guilt as a gift pointing the way to spiritual health.  Take courage, repent of just one thing today.  You will feel better.

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