Oh My Goodness! This past week has been amazing as I have gotten to connect with so many of you through the online training, emails and Facebook messages. As you have reached out to me, the cool thing is, you’re asking the right questions. As I talked to you this week, one conversation kept coming up over and over. So I decided it was probably one to share.

As a follower of Jesus, I know that Romans 8:1 is true.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” {Romans 8:1}

However, in day to day life, I don’t always live in this truth. And I’m wondering if you can relate?

Paul tells us here that we are not condemned if we are in a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus’s blood was the payment for our sin.

Unfortunately, however, our enemy still “prowls around looking for someone to devour.” {I Peter 5:8}

This means that even though Jesus came to set us free and give us an opportunity to “live life to the full” {John 10:10}, you and I and our loved ones don’t always choose this. Today I want to look at one reason why this is true. It is the difference between whether we feel shame or feel guilt when we make poor choices.

Let’s be honest, we all mess up. Even when we have the best of intentions we all struggle sometimes. We will not be free from this struggle until we get to heaven one day, so how do we cope here on earth?

Well, it is actually how you cope that influences whether you will overcome your struggles or continue in them. Understanding this, might help you also understand why a loved one is stuck in his or her own struggles, too. So what is this difference?

It is Shame Vs Guilt.

When you make a poor choice you typically feel either shame or guilt afterwards. Which one you feel influences how you move forward. Here’s the difference between the two.

1. Feeling Guilty

If I screw up and lose my temper, and I feel guilty afterward, that guilt lets me know, “Hey this feels really crappy! I hate the way I feel right now! And I never want to feel this way again. I should figure out a better way to handle my emotions so that I don’t have to act like that and then feel like this again.”

Guilt motivates you to never feel that way again and leads to better choices. Guilt separates the action from the person. Guilt can name the decision and call the decision bad. When you feel guilty you might say, “I made a bad choice, but I am not a bad person.”

Guilt gives us the resolve to move forward and work toward figuring out what just happened so that it doesn’t happen again.

2. Dealing with Shame

Shame on the other hand, tells you that you are a bad person for making a poor choice. Shame says, “You are a horrible mom/wife/friend for making that choice. No one would ever love someone who makes choices like that! You have tried before to make better choices, but it didn’t work. This is just who you are. Stop fighting it! You are a ______________.” {You fill in the blank.}

Shame traps us into feeling so bad about ourselves that we are willing to do just about anything to stop feeling this way! We need an escape! Unfortunately, when shame controls us, our escape method is usually another poor choice. So the cycle begins.

Poor choice is made–>I tell myself I am a bad person–>I hate feeling this way and the only way I know to numb that pain is to make another poor choice.

This vicious cycle can lead our lives spinning out of control. It can destroy marriages, relationships between parents and children, friends and loved ones.

Shame does not lead to healing. Shame leads to more pain. If you are trapped in shame, it is hard work to overcome, but it can be done!

Let me share an example of what this looks like in my own life to help illustrate this.

Yesterday, I was triggered and reacted in a negative way. I felt horrible for reacting. After I made my choice to act badly, the mental battle began…I told myself, “I am a horrible person. You told yourself before that you weren’t going to do this again, and yet here you are! You’ll never overcome this!” At that moment, I was so discouraged and beaten down, I could have let this broken record of shame continue. But, instead, I chose a different road.

I recognized this mental attack as the voice of shame {and a lie}, so I confronted the lie and moved forward in truth. Instead of believing the lies, I asked myself, “What is really going on? What happened before I reacted? What is going on inside of me that caused this reaction?”

I realized  that in the moment, I had felt rejected. Rejection is one of my triggers that I struggle with. So, when I realized that rejection was at the heart of my poor decision, I reminded myself of the truth of God’s Word, “I am chosen.” {John 15:16} Jesus loved me enough to step down from heaven to die for me so that I could have a personal relationship with Him. I am not rejected. I am loved.

This stepping back, figuring out the cause, and replacing the lie with the truth, allowed me to feel guilty about my poor decision…which is healthy. But it also, allowed me to silence the lies and instead figure out why I made the decision in the first place. Then I could take steps toward not making that decision again. The more I am in tune with the cause, the better I can handle the next trigger.

Taking time to understand what is going on underneath is one gift that will help move you from living in shame, to feeling guilty and letting that guilt motivate you to make better choices in the future.

If you are struggling with your reaction to triggers, I encourage you to begin digging deep. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to check out this article specifically on overcoming triggers.

>>4 Steps to Overcoming Triggers<<

This article takes you step by step through your trigger and helps you figure out healthy ways to move past the reaction into healthy action! There is also a free worksheet to help you move this info from knowledge into action! You can request your free copy of this handout here.

>>Triggers Worksheet<<

I've been a follower of Jesus for over 30 years, and have been teaching God's Word to students and women for nearly 20 years! God has brought me through some difficult chapters in my own life, and now my passion is equipping women like you with tools to embrace your own unexpected chapters in life with grace and truth.

2 comments on “Shame Vs Guilt

  1. Pingback: Why I Let My Kids See My Pain | Speaking in Faith {with Faith Klein}

  2. Pingback: Forgiveness: It isn’t Always Easy | Speaking in Faith {with Faith Klein}

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