Shame Vs. Guilt, Which One Drives You?

I have been doing a lot of reading the last few months, more than at any time I can remember. I have been out of work with a shoulder injury that prevents returning to my current labor job, all while fairly isolated (apart from Susan, the internet at a local coffee shop, counseling, and my Pure Desire Group).

During this time I have learned something that I believe would benefit many of us. It is about shame, and how we often get it and guilt confused. I am reading a book called “From Shame To Glory” by Katherine W. Chamberlin, I highly recommend it. Susan and I often read and discuss many books, but this one has been very helpful as we process our past.

Let me share some of my thoughts from the chapter entitled “Shame vs. Guilt”:
1) Shame is a loss of personal worth and involves our feelings, and guilt is a more like a legal decision rendered in a court of law.

2) If we are guilty of something, we can follow the prescribed actions to resolve our error. Confession, repentance, restitution and restoration as it is Biblical and defined. Yes, there are possible sowing and reaping consequences, that is a given. However, it is in shame that we are suddenly shown to be defective and it is “laid bare for all to see.”

Here is a very important excerpt from the book:
“If we are guilty, it is possible to be forgiven for what we did or failed to do or for an attitude. It is possible to make amends, make restitution, or to change. It is possible to avoid repeating the offense. Shame declares that we are flawed beyond repair; forgiveness is not relevant to one who is feeling worthless. We cannot be forgiven for the way we are.”

Isn’t that truly life-giving? Many of us live in a state of shame, having a flawed set of rules that not only define us, but reinforce a lack of hope that we will ever make good decisions, live in healthy relationships, or be acceptable to God. We can live in such terrible fear of sinning that we are driven by performance that allows zero possibility of mistakes.

I am choosing to be forgiven and receive grace over the shackles of my former lifetime of bondage to shame.

Yes, it is a little more work than that to make the transition. There are many deep-seeded beliefs about God, myself, and others that have contributed to this thinking over the years. It is work. And after more than a year I am seeing such wonderful change in my heart. I still struggle with shame, but I can see how my life is being transformed by knowing my worth to God. I am more thoughtful in my decisions and conclusions because I am not coloring them through a lens of personal shame.

Won’t you join me and discover a more beautiful and fulfilling life free of shame?


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