Guilt vs. Shame

Two 5-letter words that send our introspective selves into shatters and send our defenses up. One is healthy, one is not. One accepts fault and is able to move past it. One causes us to be reduced to the fault.

Shame. It’s a gremlin that sits outside of our hypothetical doors of opportunity. It reminds you of the times you’ve failed. It points to the times you were never able to please your parents. It showers you in fear. And all of these shortcomings were because of you. Had you been any other person, your life would be so much better.

If only I tried harder. I’m such an idiot.

I’m so stupid. I can’t believe I did that. 

Guilt. A factual occurrence of wrong-doing. We can be guilty, and feel guilty. Admitting to that and accepting it was a one-time problem takes away the possibility that it is due to our entire existence that something bad has happened. We are human beings. Capable of mistakes. Yet, also capable of apologizing for those mistakes. Capable of growing and learning from our mistakes.

Shame doesn’t allow you to learn and grow. It gives you the gloves with which to beat yourself down. It gives you an excuse to run away from discomfort. Admitting guilt and understanding the steps it will take to get better is so much harder than using yourself as a scapegoat.

Your shame can also lead to aggression and anger. Instead of accepting guilt, our feeling of shame has a sharp uptick. This doesn’t feel good. That person accusing me of hurting them can’t be right. They’ve hurt me. They’re in the wrong. And we snap at the people we love. We say things we don’t mean. We get angrier when they point it out.

I know. I’ve been there. So this month, take some time to wrestle with your gremlins. They’ll say you’re not good enough. You’re the cause of all the bad in your life. You may be guilty of laziness – but that does not make you a bad person. That does not mean you’re not worthy. Find the worth in yourself this month.

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