The Difference Between Guilt And Shame, And Why It Matters

The Difference Between Guilt And Shame, And Why It Matters

Shame tells you that you need to change everything. Guilt tells you that there are parts of you that are good, parts of you that are bad, but you just need to grow, not change.

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My minister, Stephen, differentiates between the phenomena of guilt and shame with this sentiment:

"Guilt is good. It implies that you do bad things, sometimes. Shame is bad. It implies that you are bad."

It's a simple distinction, but one that matters, one with extremely profound implications. Guilt and shame are terms often used interchangeably in therapy and in dictionaries. A lot of the time, the two emotions are even felt interchangeably. But guilt implies that you can come back and repent and seek forgiveness for your actions. Shame implies that you can't be redeemed or saved, and even beyond a spiritual context, shame is much more problematic for any person to feel.

Shame is what tells you you're not good enough when you're taking a risk or trying something new. It is the feeling that you will never amount to anything. In the words of researcher Brene Brown, "shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior." Shame is correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, and suicide, while guilt is inversely correlated with all those things. So while shame leads to destruction, guilt leads to growth.

But I am not one to believe in overarching narratives, because I do believe each person is unique. What works for one person may be different from the other. According to Brown, shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Shame is what tells you that you need to be perfect to be worthy. Guilt is what tells you that you already are worthy, and you just need to do the best you can to be a little better.

Shame is, in Brown's words, a global epidemic. In a religious sense, it tells us that we have to do this, that, and move mountains to even attempt to earn God's love. Living without shame, and only guilt tells us that we don't have to earn God's love - it's something we already have, and we just have to fine-tune the way we live with others and do the best we can. Shame tells you that you need to change everything. Guilt tells you that there are parts of you that are good, parts of you that are bad, but you just need to grow, not change.

In a psychological sense, shame is a relinquishing of control, and the feeling that whatever you do, however hard you try, you can't change things. Although outwardly you're not giving up, inwardly you are, because no matter how well you do, how much you accomplish, how many people you help, shame will always tell you it didn't mean anything and that it didn't matter. Shame tells you that you don't matter. While both guilt and shame are emotions that make you feel bad, guilt motivates you to fix what's wrong, while shame usually leads you to avoid the damage.

I'm writing this article and realizing that it sounds like there seems to be a huge distinction between guilt and shame. There is, and we should strive for guilt rather than shame. But the distinction between feeling the two is not so strong. A lot of us fall on some sort of spectrum - we feel shame about some things, we feel guilty about others. Very few of us lie on either of the extremes.

But Brene Brown says that there are shame-prone individuals and guilt-prone people. Some people say you should surround yourself with more guilt-prone people, but I don't believe in that notion, nor do I believe in categorizing people in my life in that way. "If we're going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy's the antidote to shame." And Brown believes that being the "man in the arena," per the great Teddy Roosevelt speech, is the way to feel empathy. Because when we step into someone else's chaos and arena, we feel what they feel.

According to Joaquin of the Positive Psychology Program, one way to remedy feelings of guilt and shame is through self-forgiveness. However, "people who are guilt-prone are more likely to self-forgive, while people who are shame-prone are less likely to self-forgive." This is an incredibly important distinction in psychological circles because self-forgiveness is a way to overcome these self-conscious feelings "without ignoring the real damage one may have caused that led to those feelings of guilt and shame."

While shame may be bad and guilt may be good, they are both important social emotions because they stop us from acting in self-interest. Yes, it's harder to act in a more beneficial way when we feel shame instead of guilt, but we all feel both, to some extent, and some of us feel one more than the other. I converted to Christianity this year because Christians I knew treated me with non-judgmental kindness, listened, and extended grace whenever I did wrong, and that's the kind of person I wanted to be to other people.

Joaquin ends his article saying that "guilt and shame are fundamentally meant to lead to a more empathetic and just society." That is something to remember when we are in the arena and think "I've made terrible decisions" or "I'm a terrible person." It's all meant to make us better people in relation to each other.

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An Open Letter To The Guy I'm Finally Getting Over

I think I'm ready to listen to the happy Taylor Swift songs again.
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I remember when all of this started. I couldn't have predicted you if I'd tried. I was so focused on myself that it took me a while to even admit I was interested in you. You were the one I didn't see coming, and then before long, you were the one I couldn't imagine leaving.

I'll be honest. I lied to myself and to everyone else for a long time. “We aren't anything serious," I'd say. “I'm just having fun." How stupid was I to think that I could resist getting caught up in you? Those months that we spent together were some of the best of my life. I didn't think it was possible for someone to make me laugh like you did, to make me feel the way you did. You brought out a side of me I had never seen before, and even though that scared me, I didn't want it to stop.

You had me so fooled.

One day, just like that, you were gone, and before I knew it I couldn't even recognize myself anymore. I couldn't imagine how someone I had given so much to could just leave like that and not even look back. The months after that was a string of waking up and losing you all over again, telling my friends I was fine one second and crying to them the next. And the second I started thinking I was OK, I saw you again. We talked, I cried, I yelled, you cried, you yelled, and for a couple of weeks I pretended that everything would be OK, and you really meant it this time and we would make it. But just like before, it wasn't real.

Realizing that took me longer than I'd like to admit, but this is what I need you to know: I'm moving on. Finally, after months of dialing your number just to talk myself out of it, I can say that I'm moving on. I won't listen to sad songs anymore. I won't look at our pictures and re-live the days we spent together. I'm erasing every trace of you. I'm smiling brighter, I'm laughing louder, and if it's the last thing I do, I swear I'll find something that's better than what we had.

That's not to say that your memory won't knock the breath out of me on a Tuesday afternoon when our song comes through my headphones. That's not to say that I won't remember the promises you made me and want to scream at myself for ever believing you. But the difference is that I'll recognize the pain in those memories, and then I'll set them down and walk away. Because I'm done carrying them with me and I'm done giving you that power over me.

So don't call me up someday when I've finally forgotten your laugh, don't think about me at all if you can help it. You lost that right when you made the choices you did. This isn't some stupid love story we'll tell later down the road about how we beat the odds and came through stronger on the other side. This is done, do you understand? I'm finally done.

Years from now I'll look back on the adventures we had and laugh at how crazy we were. I'll remember the fierce happiness I felt while we were running wild together and I'll be grateful for this because it has molded me in ways I can't begin to explain. Someday I'll tell my daughter about you and pray that she learns from my mistakes, and when that day comes I'll wonder where you are and genuinely wish you the kind of happiness that I will have found.

I know you'll never read this. But I'll read this, on those nights when it feels like everything is starting to fall apart. Again and again and again, I'll read this and remind myself of the promise I'm making at this very moment, to look forward and stop letting your memory dictate my happiness. Someone wise once said, “Suddenly you'll just know, that it's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings." Well, I'm trusting that this was just one short chapter of my book, and this is me turning the page.

On to the next.

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Yet Another Reason To Never Set Foot In College Station, TX

Part 1 of a 2 part adventure in College Station

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After that night with Cesar, Mallory and I settled down a bit. We went out of course, but we were just us doing the usual, going out, having fun, making little memories that we can cherish on our personal time. Nothing too significant happened between the time of our experience with Cesar, and what I'm about to explain next.

So, long ago, way back when, UT and TAMU had once been CRAZY rivals. The ultimate Texas rivalry was something that most people would call iconic, historical, and of course traditional, which explains why now that the rivalry is gone, TAMU continues to be obsessed with us *cough* *cough*, but that's beside the point. The point here is that even though we were considered enemies by tradition, I still had very close friends that went to TAMU, which brings me to my reasons as to why Mallory, Cesar, and I made our way down to Yee Haw central. Here's where you can grab a snack and make yourself comfortable because of this story...WHEW CHILE...this story is a wild ride. (get it because they ride horses to class lmao).

It all began when one of my close girlfriends had been sad for a MINUTE over a guy. Her name is Cristal, she's smart, so determined, and when I say she's the most driven person I know I mean it to the highest of standards. She just so happened to go to college with an old ex of hers which, at times made things difficult as it would for anyone. Talking to Cristal and Cesar, and after realizing how much we all really needed to see each other together; Cesar decided that we would go to College station to visit Cristal. We decided this about the beginning of the week, so plans were changing constantly. We had planned to stay overnight, then last minute plans changed where we would come back the same night.

So fast forward to the day, we left to College Station. That day was interesting, we had originally planned on leaving early to get there a little early, but things changed. Cesar was driving, which from Austin, College Station is about 2 hours away. He picked us up around 6:45 pm and we didn't leave Austin until 7ish, mainly because Mallory was dying of hunger, so we had to make a stop at the nearest Whataburger. So finally, after we made it through the long line, we finally were on the way. The drive didn't feel too long and was very scenic. There were trees everywhere, so coming from the city and good cell service to trees and 1 bar E network was different, but all in all, it was a good drive! We made it to Cristal's dormitory and parked around 9-9:30ish, where we then headed up to her room. Now, Mallory and I had the bright idea to ware nothing but Longhorn gear on this campus and create a vlog for our YouTube channel on how the night would go. It wasn't until actually making it on campus and walking around in burnt orange EVERYTHING, that we had realized the bold move we had made. AGGIES HATE THE COLOR ORANGE! Let that be known! And they oddly love making this hissing noise, maybe someone should talk to them about that because it's actually kinda weird.

Anyways, after filming a bit of footage for our Vlog in her room and catching up a bit, Cristal decided to take us to the famous Northgate. Northgate is the Equivalent to our sixth street. Northgate just so happens to also be the only place in college station that students have to party at, eat at, shop at, etc. She took us to this super country burger bar, where we got harassed continuously for wearing and ROCKING I might add, our burnt orange gear. Eventually sitting and talking, we had concluded that the night was young, and we wanted to go out, so Cristal told us she would take us to this bar/club known as Shiner. It's apparently the place to be if you are a student, like to dance, and just have fun.

We had to walk back to Cristal's room so she could get ready to go out. While on our way back Dick had texted us that he was on his way to College Station as well to meet up with an old friend of his. We really do live in a small world, let me tell you because turns out this "old friend" was someone Mallory and I had gone to middle school with, someone who had already hit me up on snap saying we should all go out together in College Station since we were there. We hadn't put two and two together that this was the guy that Dick was talking about, until Dick mentioned his name, Rich. Rich is the last name that everyone calls him, and he is a first-year student at TAMU. He's honest, kind, humble, a die-hard country fan and a good country dancer at that. He's also the kind of guy that is so laid back that you cannot have a bad time with him, ever. After concluding that Dick and Rich had already known each other, we had told them we would be down to all go out together as a group, so eventually, after Cristal had finished getting ready, we met up with them and went to Rich's room to pregame.

Mallory and I didn't really drink much but a sip, while everyone else was drinking on various things. Cristal took a few sips of a drink to try it, but since it was her first time drinking anything, it low-key hit her LIGHTLY. After we had finished drinking, we headed out. On our way there, Rich was trying to teach Cristal and me how to hit a Juul, which was horrible because we did NOT know what we were doing, which led to us wasting a large amount of the pod.

We got to Shiner Park and one by one we made our way in, however, Dicks dumbass got caught using his fake by the bouncer at the door. So, after we handled that situation, we headed straight to the dance floor. Mallory and I danced country for the first time, got hissed at by multiple aggies, and made new friends. The night was filled with fun. Cristal enjoyed herself, for Cesar it was a new experience, and for us, it was a new form of fun, fun we never really had experienced before.

After the bar began to close, we headed out to find somewhere to eat. It was around 2 am when the bar closed, and we were searching for someplace open to catch a bite to eat. We finally found a McDonalds, where we wasted another hour waiting for our food and eating. Eventually, we had taken Cristal back to her room. She felt better after dancing off her buzz and eating something. She led us back to her room, where we left her at the entrance of her dormitory. The time now was about 3:30ish, and we looked at Cesar and he decided that we were still going to drive back to Austin at this time. Yes, I know, we're CRAZY. So, we piled up in his car and started our way back.

I fell asleep for the majority of the drive back and woke up around 5 am to go into my room. We walked in and immediately knocked out. Val had to work the next morning so naturally, we woke up around 11 am, When the phone rang. It was Dick and Rich. They called to talk about a recap of the night, something that has become a tradition with us. And then they said IT. They said the magic words that when said to Mallory, you instantly knew things were going to get interesting. They uttered the words, "Come to College Station tonight…YOU'RE NOT DOWN". After that was said, Mallory looked over at me, giving me the look, she gives when she has something up her sleeve. And by 9 pm that night, the same day we were on our way back to College Station. Stay tuned for the rest…

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