Confusing Shame & Guilt

Posted on June 8, 2011. Filed under: Community, Family | Tags: , , , , |

Susan, being an extrovert, thrived off the company of her friends and family.  She had a genuine heart for those she knew, and it was evident.  However, one day she opened her mouth a little too wide allowing words to pierce the heart of someone she cared deeply about.  Anna, her close friend was in the process of transferring jobs and moving to New York.  About a year later, Susan was shocked to receive a confrontational letter in her mailbox from her old friend Anna.  Being a people-person, Susan felt sick to the very core of her being. 


 Option A – Shame

As she stood in her driveway reading the letter, feelings of anxiety, frustration and anger started to bubble beneath her surface.  “It wasn’t that big of a deal!  I didn’t even say half of these things, and the other half are true!”  Over the next few weeks, Susan’s shame would pop up, catching her off guard and leaving her to feel utterly uncomfortable.  She buried the letter beneath the stack of old newspapers hoping it would disappear, along with her shame that came from blurting out those words.  “I will never talk to her again, and the problem will go away.” Susan thought more of Anna, causing Susan to become defensive against her own thought.  She was trying to survive, but really Susan was only drowning in shame, denial, and isolation.

Option B – Guilt

She realized the gut-wrenching pain that she put Anna through.  She knew she would have to be honest and face her friend.  It would be difficult, and Anna might never forgive her, but she had to do it.  She took three days to pray and muster up some courage to call.  Susan picked up the phone, slowly dialed the number and prayed Anna wouldn’t answer.  A simple “hello” greeted Susan’s plethora of thoughts.  Slowly but surly, Susan admitted her wretched words and asked for forgiveness.  Healing broke through both of their hearts and with time and patience love could be shown again. 

Shame allows you to drown in despair, while guilt allows you to confront the problem and heal from the pain.  Our natural reaction is to feel shame; however, God’s plan for us is to have feelings of guilt allowing confrontation, apologizing and eventually healing to take place for both of the hurt parties.    


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