Shame and Guilt

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!                                                                                                                                                                      II Corinthians 5:17

Yesterday I talked about the role of guilt and remorse as we become more aware of how we are affected by our actions which may have perhaps hurt others, or even ourselves. Guilt is the response of conscience, but it can also be a response of anxiety. Often, anxiety will exaggerate the consequences of actions we have done into an unrealistic burden on us. Revisiting past actions that are long resolved can make us feel the emotion of guilt, when in reality, the feeling is cause by anxiety- not a responsive conscience.

Shame, on the other hand, is the residual of chronic guilt. It is guilt, perhaps unexplored by a mind that is convinced that we are not worthy of the love of others, or even ourselves.

Shame makes us direct our focus inward, and view our entire self in a negative light. Feelings of guilt, in contrast, result from a concrete action for which we accept responsibility. Guilt causes us to focus our attention on the feelings of others. (Quote from Scientific American article 8/9/2019) We see that shame becomes a self-defining aspect which causes harm.

Jesus was a master at recognizing the negative effects of shame, and giving new definition to us that does not give shame a foothold. His responses to Matthew and Zacchaeus, to a Roman centurion, Saul of Tarsus, Peter, and so many others was essentially this- “I know who you are. You are not what you did, you are who you are becoming”  

Shame reminds us of a person that is broken. It does not allow for healing and forward movement. Recovery and grace look for the future. They do not deny the past. The past has its place. However, the past sins of our lives do not define us as we take the road to healing that Jesus freely offers.

Jesus offers a new creation- one that takes shame out of the equation.

Prayer: Lord, we know that you would have us live in the dignity of grace rather than the bondage of shame, Amen

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