Shame vs. Guilt

Shame is bad.

Guilt can be good.

 

Shame is when someone eats an entire box of donuts and someone says, “You’re disgusting.” Or, “You will never be a good role model for kids”. Or something else equally shaming.

Guilt is when someone eats an entire box of donuts and someone says, “Eating all of those donuts in one sitting is kinda gross.” Or, “Eating all of those donuts isn’t something you want to model for your kids.”

 

Shame = YOU are wrong, bad, disgusting, an idiot, not good enough, etc.

Guilt = something you have DONE, an action or decision you’ve made, is bad, disgusting, and so on.

 

The difference may be in one word, but the difference is in reality, HUGE.

The difference between shame and guilt is whether or not we hate ourselves or something we’re doing.

 

Shame tells us (whether we heard it from ourselves or someone else) that there is something fundamentally wrong and disgusting about us. It tells us we aren’t good enough, we’re broken, we cannot achieve anything of value. Shame tells us that we have no value and never can.

Guilt, on the other hand, tells us when we aren’t doing something we approve of. Our actions, motives, or words aren’t lining up with our values or beliefs.

 

For example: Bob steals from Sandy.

Bob has three options.

Option A: Feel guilty.

Option B: Feel ashamed.

Option C: Feel guilty and ashamed.

 

Option A gives Bob the ability to say to himself, “hey, self – that was messed up! I don’t believe in stealing. I feel terrible about what I did. I know it was wrong.” This gives Bob the ability to make amends with the person and then make life changes to ensure he doesn’t steal again. This also allows Bob to tell himself that what he DID was wrong and bad and terrible. Bob does NOT believe Bob is wrong and bad and terrible. Guilt allows Bob to condemn his action of stealing, feel bad about it, make amends, then move forward with the intent of following through on his values and belief. Which, in this case, is ‘thievery is wrong’.

Bob also needs to look into why he stole, what his motives were, and so on. Guilt allows him to do that. It gives him the comfort that Bob is a good identity to have, a good person. Simply a person who made a bad decision and now needs to adjust his way of living to align his future actions with his values and beliefs.

 

 

Option B gives Bob a very limited doorway for positivity. This doorway is squeaked open only if Bob realizes he is shaming himself and needs to stop. Then targets his guilt and does the inner work.

If Bob doesn’t do this, and continues to shame himself, his inner monologue goes something like this.

“I stole something. I’m a horrible human being. Who steals from a working, single mother? I’m disgusting. No wonder I’m single, alone, hated, fat, gross, mean, etc. No wonder everyone hates me.” Bob feels disgusted with himself. He feels ashamed of who he is. Bob feels uncomfortable with his own existence and brings up every negative thing about himself, every negative situation, thought, and feeling from his life to back this theory up that Bob is indeed, a horrid excuse of a human being.

Guess was Bob does with this? He hates himself. And will repeat the thieving behavior. And then hate himself more. Rinse and repeat.

Shame keeps us locked in with whatever we hate about ourselves. Shame tells us there is no possibility for change because we are flawed at a basic level and can never be any good.

Shame lies to us and we do nothing to change.

 

Option C is what I’m fairly certain most of us feel.  And our shame smooshes our guilt with a twenty pound dumbbell again and again and again until it’s little more than a twitching inkling in the background of our minds that only further backs up our shame’s reasoning for why we are horrid human beings who deserve to suffer in their horrid human fate because that’s just how life is and we’re all going to die anyway! See option B.

 

We have a choice.

Choose option A.

Seriously.

We all do bad things. We all have and we all will. They’re called mistakes and we instantly recognize we just hurt someone’s feelings or have that liver clenching moment when we realize we forgot our best friend’s birthday.

We all do things wrong. That does not make US bad people. Unless we value hurting people to get ahead. Unless we value chopping people up in little bits. Unless we think it is fun to hurt people, animals, children, etc… we are not bad people.

We make human mistakes because *ahem* we are human. Not robots of unfeeling perfect precision. Thank heaven!

 

When we do things wrong, it is our responsibility to feel our guilt and do something about it for the better.

 

And I KNOW this is hard advice to follow. Three years into a support group and four years into therapy and it’s only now really pinging for me. But it does make sense. I has sunk into my stubborn skull, darting past the negative loops of habit ingrained in my brain.

We can all change for the better.

We have to want to.

And if all we do is shame ourselves, we will never fully believe we are capable and deserving of doing better, of change in the direction we want to go.

 

 

We are deserving. We are valuable. We can change. We can allow our guilt to help us to take a realistic look at our behaviors and spring us into becoming who we want to become. Who we choose to become.

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47 Truths People Would Tell Their Younger Selves

If you could go back in time, and tell yourself up to five things, what would you say?

While I’m a big believer in having to live through our trials, pains, and sorrows in order to learn, grow, and become who we are today – I read this question in an email and it immediately captured me.

I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

So I asked a handful of people I know what they would say…

 

I’d like to play blog tag with EVERYONE WHO READS THIS POST.

Oh yeah.

Challenge thrown down.

I’d love it if different people could copy and paste this post – and add onto it, wisdom from the people in their own lives. Let’s see how many truths we can accumulate. Don’t forget to link back to me so I can see too!

Also, if you’ve got some answers — throw ’em at me in the comments section! I want to know.

 

 

Laura,

  1. “Love yourself as you are, but always strive to become better.”
  2. “You’re beautiful and worthwhile and priceless.”
  3. “You are a daughter of a King [God] and are destined to be a Queen. Act accordingly.”

 

Reta,

  1. To my fifteen-year-old self: “You don’t know everything, you’ve got a lot more to learn about the real world. Much more wisdom to hear.”

 

Tannis,

  1. “If I had something to tell my younger self, it would just be that I wouldn’t change a thing. I have no regrets. My life has had the same ups and downs that every person does. But, I wouldn’t change who I have become. And, the best part, I have the three most miraculous children in the world! Just keep driving yourself forward every single day.”

 

Rose,

  1. “My feelings matter.”
  2. “I am special and deserve to be loved and nurtured.”
  3. “There is help out there for kids in abusive situations.”
  4. “I was right when I wondered if families could be happy, supportive, and loving.”
  5. “I can be truly happy and someday I will meet a wonderful man that loves me for who I am – and I will have a beautiful family of my own and have the opportunity to be the loving role model I always wanted.”

 

Anonymous,

  1. “It get’s better.”

 

Anonymous,

  1. “You don’t really have to grow up in all aspects of life; most of your best times will involve being silly and childlike.”
  2. “Yes, I know it sounds foreign right now, but you CAN learn to meditate.”
  3. “You are who you are and that’s okay. You can still be a wife and a mom. Most people will still like you and the ones who don’t won’t matter. You’ll miss out on a lot of peace if you wait until you’re 26 to realize this.”

 

Alisha,

  1. “Don’t date that guy.”
  2. “Go to class.”
  3. “You’re not fat.”
  4. “Say ‘no thanks’.”
  5. “Don’t waste your time.”

 

Martha,

  1. “Be more attentive in school. Now I understand the true importance of history! It’s a composite of everything we are – and a true path to whatever we will be. What, with all the warnings of what to not do again!”
  2. “Study Orwell more in depth. His 1984 is today! Are we in a time warp? Will we ever learn? And if we truly did, would we have the courage to change?”
  3. “Keep God’s commandments and follow without question!!!”

 

Chuck,

  1. “Go into baseball with Don Drysdale with the chance to pitch for the Dodgers.”
  2. “Do not get married at age nineteen.”
  3. “Do not start drinking.”

 

Kevin,

  1. “Don’t sell your 1967 Mustang fastback.”
  2. “Buy that house even if at first it will be hard.”
  3. “Save money for a rainy day.”
  4. “Don’t take that first pain pill.”
  5. “Most of all, I would beat it into myself to put my kids first in everything and to show them support in everything they do.

 

Anonymous,

  1. “Be courageous.”
  2. “Don’t allow my fears to sway my dreams.”
  3. “When I meet a church member, listen with my heart. Better decisions will follow that knowledge.”

 

Jim,

  1. “Career, financial, and investment advice.”
  2. “However, most of the wisest counsel I would like to give myself, I needed to learn through experience.”

 

Tiffany,

  1. “Just because you do something differently than someone else does not make it wrong or the wrong way of doing something. It’s your own way!”
  2. “Always keep an open mind.”
  3. “Never make an important decision based on emotions.”

 

Lisa,

  1. “This Earth is not our home. Our home is with God. Stay focused on your Eternal goal and not the worldly experience.”
  2. “Stand up for the things that you need and believe in.”
  3. “Don’t stress over the little things. God is there to help you through any trial. He will make the pain lighter and easier to handle.”
  4. “Love yourself, shine your light.”

 

Daphne Shadows,

  1. Stop hating yourself. If you don’t, this bad habit is going to grow until it’s taken over your identity.
  2. Stop allowing others to choke the life out of you with fear.
  3. Hope. Believe. It gets better. So much better.
  4. I would read “Invictus”, hug myself, and whisper in my ear, between you and God, you are the master of your fate, you decide your life. No one else. Not anyone else. Not ever.
  5. Get to writing stories you want to write! Enjoy it. That’s why you do it. If there’s no passion, there’s no life.

 

 

Invictus 

by William Ernest Henley

 

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

 

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.

 

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.