Shame, it’s not about what, but who.

Although guilt and shame often become intertwined in our thinking, there are some very important differences between the two.

Guilt can often be a healthy emotion. Such as when we do something that goes against God’s word and our guilt leads us to repent. Healthy guilt is feeling bad about what we have done, and it is an emotion God gave us for a purpose. 

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

2 Corinthians 7:11 

The guilt described in 2 Corinthians 7:11 is healthy guilt. It’s guilt motivated by love. This type of guilt is meant to be a gauge for us, warning us we are off course. It’s a guilt that we experience when we know that we have done something wrong that has caused harm in our relationship with Christ or others.

Healthy guilt motivates us to turn and do what is right.
For example, when we feel bad about the way we have treated someone, our guilt drives us to ask for their forgiveness and then learn how to act differently to avoid repeating that harm.

This healthy guilt referred to in 2 Corinthians 7:11 differs from unhealthy guilt motivated by fear to save our own hide.

Healthy guilt, like the guilt in the scripture above, produces a Godly sorrow in us that leads us to repentance. Healthy feelings of guilt provide us an opportunity to change how we do things to prevent causing more harm. In other words, to live free of guilt we must learn to do things differently.

Shame is a whole different beast.

Shame is not feeling bad about what you’ve done, but feeling bad about who you are. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the difference between guilt and shame because shame confuses and tangles up the things you have done or had done to you with who you are.

While healthy guilt convicts us and drives us to want to do what is right to restore damaged relationships, shame causes us to want to hide parts of ourselves from others because we feel defective. Shame makes you feel like there is something wrong with you personally, not just something wrong with what you have done or had done to you.

Shame traps us in a world of secrecy.

Because shame makes us feel defective, we end up protecting ourselves by staying somewhat disconnected from others because we fear they will find out how unworthy we are. Shame tells us we are bad and we should hide who we really are. It traps us in a world of secrecy. It’s important to understand that this disconnect from others leads to even more shame as we tell ourselves that “People would not want to be around me if they knew who I really am”. 

There is freedom from guilt and shame.

To live free of guilt we must turn away from sin and do things in a way that is God-honoring. To live free of shame, we must make a choice to believe what the Lord says about us. No one can talk us out of our shame. No one can fix our shame for us or convince us we need not feel shame. The Lord heals our shame when we will be vulnerable before Him, and trust His acceptance and His unconditional love towards us. We must accept God’s truth, that we are created in His image and that we are deeply and unconditionally loved by Him. We must understand that there is absolutely nothing that we can do to increase or decrease His love for us. His love is not about us, friend – it’s about Him. 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Roman 8:1

Do you struggle with shame? Do you feel as though you are damaged goods, even though you know that you are a new creation in Christ?

If you’d love to learn more about how you can break free from negative self messages while growing a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus, contact Renee at:

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