Shame and guilt are words that we use to mean the same thing. But they are vastly different, and they are emotions which have quite different outcomes. One is helpful and leads to an improved life and the other is destructive, breaks relationships and causes pain.
When I first became a Christian, I understood the concept of forgiveness, that through Jesus I was totally forgiven. But even though I knew I was forgiven I was very much still lost in the shame of my past.
In my past, as an alcoholic and as a broken girl, I had done many terrible things and hurt many people. Although there was guilt associated with those behaviours, I had morphed my guilt into shame and self-hatred.
Guilt is a normal and helpful feeling when we have done something wrong. Guilt is the prod from our conscience telling us to correct our error and take action to repair a situation. Guilt is related to a specific behaviour or situation, i.e. ‘I did something wrong’
Shame however is a negative judgement about yourself because of that behaviour, i.e. ‘I AM wrong because I did that’. Shame made me feel powerless and worthless. As a result, I withdrew from people, never let my walls down, was mistrusting of people’s motives and felt in danger of being exposed as a faulty. I felt inadequate and ‘wrong’.
Living with shame is living as a captive, unable to be free or to live life as God intended for us. God does not want us living in shame. Jesus came to set the captive free and allow us to live unashamed and bold. Guilt can give us control and responsibility over our behaviour, but shame is passive and helpless.
Jesus met with many people on the margins of society. He never was ashamed of them nor did he shamed them, but through love and truth, he showed them their guilt and empowered them to change. In Romans 10:11 we are promised that anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.
Shame makes us want to hide in darkness, but Jesus is the light and there is no shame in the light. To conquer my shame, I stopped hiding and stepped into the light. I challenged the inner voice in my mind and separated the feelings of guilt and the shame-based self-criticism.
I learnt to forgive myself and let go of my past. Shame holds on to every mistake or wrongdoing as proof of worthlessness, but the grace of God is forgiveness and mercy, there is no need to hold on anymore. Learn to forgive yourself. Do not reject the gift of forgiveness, if God can forgive you, YOU can forgive you.
Make a stand against shame, it has no place in a Christians life. It will only hold you down and prevent you moving forward. Jesus has broken shame and its hold over you, so let it go.
“SHAME says because I am flawed, I am unacceptable BUT GRACE says though I am flawed, I am CHERISHED!”Anonymous