Guilt vs. Shame

downloadI’m reading a book called Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown right now. It’s a good book so far, and she has some great stuff to say. Right now, I reading about the difference between guilt and shame. It’s been useful, because I didn’t understand the distinction between these two concepts very clearly.

Guilt looks at a situation where you come up short of the standards you hold in your life and say ‘I did wrong’ or ‘I came up short there’.

Shame looks at those situations and says ‘I’m a horrible person’ or ‘I’m such a loser’.

Guilt is useful only insofar as it makes us aware of our need for the mercy that God so willingly gives us when we fall short, and the grace which empowers us to live a life closer to the one Jesus calls us to live.

Shame is wholly destructive, and leads us to believe that we don’t deserve the mercy and grace that God wants to share with us.

Brown makes the case that using shame to correct behavior is completely counter-productive in parenting, managing, teaching, or any other leadership situation.

I couldn’t agree more. We are all children of God, and we inherently all have worth.

Instead of calling people to live up to the standard of following Jesus, to the calling that God extends to us as partners in the ever expanding nature of his Kingdom, shame attacks their very self worth.

It’s an effective trick.

That must be why Satan likes it so much.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tells Eve that she has no worth if she doesn’t eat the apple. “…as soon as you eat it…you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

If you don’t eat that apple, you’re going to stay a loser. Shame on you if you don’t eat that apple.

When Jesus was at the end of his 40 day fast, Satan came to Jesus and gave him several challenges. The first two started the same way: “If you are the Son of God…” (See Matthew 4:1-11)

Unlike the response he gets in the garden, Jesus does not let shame manipulate him. He looks to the guidance and standards given by God in the scriptures and avoids the trap.

Shame is still a favorite tool of our enemy today. When you find yourself devaluing the inherent worth you have as a person, adjust this internal monologue with what God says about us.

That you are beautifully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:13-15)

That God greatly values you. (Luke 12:6-7)

That nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39)

It’s okay if you see areas in your life that do not yet measure up to the life God has called you to live, but don’t think that’s where your self worth comes from. Those feelings of guilt are simply there to point you back to the one that says he is working in us, and won’t quit until the work is done. (Philippians 1:6)