Guilt tells you when you have done something bad.
Shame tells you that you are something bad.
Guilt is healthy because it can inspire you to action: repentance, new perspectives and change. Shame is unhealthy because it sucks all the helium out of your soul and tells you that you are shriveled like a used balloon. Shame is still, stale and stagnant.
Whereas guilt empowers a person to see the truth of her actions and consequences, shame blinds a person to her true identity and presses against the sides of her heart like an unseen vice.
We all make mistakes. That is part of being alive here on this earth. We live our lives moving forward—without the benefit of omniscience—and we learn our lives looking back. Imagine, please, a busy street corner in your town where everyone is walking backwards down the street. They are looking in the direction from whence they have come and yet they are still moving forward in space and time. Does it make sense not to face into the direction in which you are headed? I have heard people say that if you are looking back into your past you cannot move forward. That is nonsense! You are always moving forward but if you don’t watch where you are going you will end up traveling somewhere you do not want to be.
If you feel guilty about something, you have choices. You can choose to confess the action, words or thoughts about which you feel guilty. You can confess them to God and/or to those your actions affected. Be aware, however, that there is also such a thing as false guilt. “False guilt,” as Psychologist June Hunt has said, “arises when you blame yourself even though you’ve committed no wrong or when you continue to blame yourself after you have confessed and turned from your sin.”
If you feel shame you have choices, too. Shame is like looking into a mirror and seeing only weaknesses, false accusations, embarrassing choices and the belittling titles given to you by others. Shame is a false identity. In order to relinquish shame you do not need a new mirror; you need a new identity. A new identity does not come through self-affirmations and strengthening the wall of protection you might be tempted to build. Instead, softness and humility will lead you to this new understanding of yourself. Ask God how He sees you. Ask Him to lift your head and show you who He created you to be. When you find your identity in Christ no man can take it from you, no mirror can skew the image and no one can ever again convince you that you are bad.
The Willow Weeping. By, Jill Szoo.
Why should the weeping willow hang her head
As though to hide from clouds and sunburned skies?
Her tuck’d face inside a shrouded bed
Collapsing imperceptibly, disguised.
Like arms with hands with fingers widely sprawled
A waterfall shoots up and trickles down.
From root to heart to mind, deep sighs are drawled
To float on feathered green, adagio drown.
Then moils in well-traveled wind, anew,
Receding close to whisper her a clue.
Afresh from heights it sloughs, it whistles through-
One single current parting weathered hues:
“Lift up your face from hiding, wholly see
Horizons lush with blooming verity.”
—Jill Szoo Wilson