Guilt vs. Shame

Posted this on Facebook this morning, decided I needed to post it here for longevity.  If you’re seeing it twice, I apologize.

My thoughts on guilt vs. shame:

Guilt is a bad internal feeling for a choice we’ve made.

Shame is a bad feeling about ourselves, sometimes for choices (though with shame, the feeling is that our choice makes US bad), but often for things outside of our complete control.

Shame, especially externally enforced shame, has gotten out of hand in our current society, where social media’s reactions to things are ignorant, overblown, capricious, and destructive. Social pressure, in appropriate amounts, can help enforce a society’s good rules. But, like fire, if allowed to rule, it will grow out of hand and destroy you.

Guilt, however, is GOOD. Guilt helps you correct behavior that wasn’t the best. Guilt is to the moral compass what pain is to the body. It tells you something is wrong and you should probably do something about it.

Sometimes, there are important rules that we are not at a stage to understand the ‘why’ of yet.  Actions and choices that have negative long-term/long-reaching consequences we are not able to comprehend yet.  That doesn’t make the rules bad.  We are taught the rules and sometimes are given more immediate (and sometimes seemingly unrelated) consequences by our families and society to help us keep the rules (to avoid the long-term negative consequences) even if we don’t like them because we don’t understand or believe in or are willing to accept the consequences.

Learn to tell the difference. Learn to teach the difference. Learn to embrace guilt, use it to grow and learn and change, and then let it go before it festers into shame.

Learn to examine and study and KEEP rules to find out the good reasons WHY they exist, which may include deciding they don’t have good reasons and resisting them, but more often, if you are honest, you will find reasons that the rules make sense and are for our good.

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